Cycle racing - past and present

Over recent deca­des the major suc­ces­ses of Ger­man racing cyclists  in the big tours, the one-day clas­sics and on the track tem­po­ra­rily boos­ted inte­rest in cycle racing and made peo­ple more wil­ling to try cycle racing them­sel­ves. Wor­thy of spe­cial men­tion are Jan Ull­rich who in 1997 became the first and only Ger­man who has so far won the Tour de France, and Erik Zabel who not­ched up over 200 vic­to­ries in his pro­fes­sio­nal career. Pro­fes­sio­nal racing cyclists were cele­bra­ted like stars. The sport's popu­la­rity only tai­led off when the widespread doping scan­dals cur­bed inte­rest in racing cycling.  

Today there are nume­rous for­mal cycle sport dis­ci­pli­nes: road racing, cycling mara­thons, ama­teur races, track cycling, moun­tain biking, cyclo­cross, skill cycling such as BMX, moun­tain bike ori­en­tee­ring and the indoor cycling dis­ci­pli­nes of trick cycling, cycle ball and cycle polo, etc. Spin­ning or indoor cycling has deve­lo­ped as a form of cycling trai­ning and a form of fit­ness trai­ning in its own right.  

Trai­ning starts early

The bicy­cle became an item of sports equip­ment very early on – even the penny-far­thing inspi­red spor­ting arti­stry. The peo­ple who rode it were seen as dar­ing, adven­tu­rous and cou­ra­geous. In the 1870s they attrac­ted a lot of atten­tion with their "adven­ture tours".  

The first road race is said to have taken place in the French city of Amiens in 1865, and in 1867 this was fol­lo­wed by the world's first ever one-day race with a field of about 100 cyclists – all male of course! The race covered a distance of 123 kilo­me­tres, begin­ning in Paris and ending in Rouen. From that point onwards cycle racing deve­lo­ped at break-neck speed. Just a year later the first track race, a 1,200 metre sprint, took place on a horse tram­way at Saint-Cloud park in Paris. In the same year, the first cycle race for women was held in Bor­deaux. The first cir­cum­na­vi­ga­tion of the globe by bicy­cle is said to have taken place bet­ween 1884 and 1886. In Ger­many the first cycle racing club in the world was foun­ded at Altona in 1869. It is said to have held the first velo­ci­pede race in Ger­many. 

From 1896 onwards Olym­pic cycle racing his­tory was writ­ten. Cycle racing played a key role in popu­la­ri­sing cycling. Nume­rous cycle racing clubs sprang up, as well as a cycle racing cul­ture all of its own.

In the years between 1870 an 1900 Germany's middle classes were swept by a wave of enthusiasm for gymnastics and sports in general: countless clubs were founded, above all gymnastics and cycling clubs.
Foto: © cycling4fans

In the years bet­ween 1870 an 1900 Ger­many's middle clas­ses were swept by a wave of enthu­si­asm for gym­na­stics and sports in gene­ral: count­less clubs were foun­ded, above all gym­na­stics and cycling clubs.