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While the pleasures of artistic cycling and cycleball will not be on show at London 2012, the official Olympic cycling programme is remarkably diverse. Yes, all of the events involve people racing each other on two-wheeled machines. But there are many different kinds of racing, all of which call for special tactics and privilege different skills. Here’s a very basic guide to what will be on offer.

The road races come in two formats. First there’s the standard scratch format: everyone starts at the same time with no handicaps (or “from scratch”), and whoever reaches the finish line first wins.…

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