The sport of road bicycle racing (bike racing on paved roads) began in the 19th century, gained popularity in France, Spain, Belgium, and Italy, and developed into an organized sport in 1868 — just 50 years after German Baron Karl von Drais patented his bicycle design ‘Laufmaschine’ (running machine), the first commercially successful two-wheeled, steerable, human-propelled vehicle. Today, road bicycle racing is the most popular professional form of bicycle racing among spectators and competitors with events held across the globe, and some of the earliest races continue each year among the biggest [Liège–Bastogne–Liège (established 1892), Paris–Roubaix (1896), the Tour de France (1903), the Milan–San Remo and Giro di Lombardia (1905), the Giro d’Italia (1909), the Volta a Catalunya (1911), and the Tour of Flanders (1913)].
There are several formats and types of bicycle road races: Single-day, Time Trial, Stage Races, and Ultra-Marathon. The most common are mass start events, where riders start the race simultaneously and ride to a set finish point, and time trials, where individual riders or teams race a course alone against the clock. A stage race or “tour” consists of separate races, or ‘stages’, during several days of competition, including mass starts and time-trial stages ridden consecutively. Ultra-Marathon is a very long single stage event where the race clock runs continuously from start to finish.
Single-day race distances may be as long as 180 miles (290 km). Courses run from start to finish (place to place) or cover one or more laps of a circuit; other single-day races combine both course types. Races over short circuits, often within a town or city, are known as ‘criteriums’. Some races, known as ‘handicaps’, are designed to match riders of different abilities and/or ages by grouping the slower riders at the start in front of the faster riders.
The first Antwerp Port Epic, a single-day bicycle road race, covered more than 200 kilometers (124.3 miles) through the port and windy ‘polders’ (low lying tracts of land enclosed by dykes) in the north of Antwerp and over unpaved strips and cobbled roads. If you missed the September 2nd live stream broadcast, there’s still time to watch a video recording of the race. Just click/tap the “Watch Again” button on the media player below ↓
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