In Atlanta, a new Superbike and portable velodrome will be introduced for track events. Mountain biking and road races take place elsewhere. A look at the new bike and track:
Introducing The Superbike
The U.S. track cycling team will be riding a newly-designed aerodynamic bicycle called Superbike II. Santa Ana manufacturer GT Bicycles built 24 of the bikes, customized to each team member. The streamlined, lightweight bike is expected to be the most technologically advanced at the Games.
Handlebars: Made of aluminum and designed to cut through the wind. Handlebars are lower than saddle to allow rider to achieve maximum tuck position.
Wheels: A smaller front wheel allows riders to draft off riders in front of them more effectively. Three different front wheels may be used, depending on track conditions.
Saddle: Carbon-fiber shell topped with a bit of padding.
Frame: Made of strong, stiff carbon fiber, the smooth surface and lack of a top bar reduces the surface area to decrease turbulence. Nuts and bolts are reduced drag. It takes 30 hours to build a frame.
Pedals: Pedal attaches to shoe with a binding-type mechanism. They have no blunt, squared off edges--they're aerodynamically smooth.
Flat, carbon fiber disc: For no-wind situations, slicing through the air with little turbulence.
Flat-bladed multi-spoked wheel or 3-spoked wheel: Used during crosswinds, to allow wind to pass through wheel.
Tires: Consist of thin, latex inner tube with silk-wound casing. Tire is glued to the casing, which is glued to the rim. Because of the Velodrome's softer surface, tire pressures might be as high as 250, twice that of a typical racing bike.
The Cost of Testing: A wind tunnel was used to help determine the rider's most aerodynamic body position. Using the General Motors wind tunnel in Michigan cost $40,000 per hour.
Wheelbase: 39 inches (from center of front axle to center of rear).
Length: 63.5 inches
Height: 29 inches
Weight: 16 pounds
Front wheel: 24 inches
Rear wheel: 27 inches
What We Know
Between them, Rebecca Twigg and Connie Paraskevin-Young have made eight Olympic teams, but both are still seeking one of the few things that has eluded them--a gold medal.
Twigg, 33, won a silver in the road race in 1984, and a bronze in the individual pursuit at Barcelona. This time, she'll compete in the individual pursuit--the race in which cyclists start on opposite sides of the track and try to catch each other--as well as in the road time trial, which is making its debut as a women's event.
Paraskevin-Young, 34, won a bronze in the match sprint in 1988 but failed to reach the quarterfinals in Barcelona after a controversial disqualification in a preliminary race. She also competed in the Winter Games in 1980 and '84 as a speedskater.
What We Don't Know
It's hard to say whether the winner of the women's road race will feel comfortable raising her arms in triumph at the finish line. In 1992, the French team was celebrating an apparent victory by Jeannie Longo when it realized that Australia's Kathryn Watt had already crossed the finish line ahead of her. Watt, who slipped ahead unnoticed earlier, won the two-hour race by 20 seconds.
American Jeanne Golay was sixth in Barcelona, and if she or one of her compatriots manages to win a medal in the grueling 108-kilometer race, it will be the first in the road race by a U.S. woman since Connie Carpenter-Phinney edged Twigg at the finish line in 1984. That was the first cycling event for women in Olympic history, making its debut 88 years after the first men's road race in 1896.
Someone You Should Know
Twigg is the U.S. women's best gold-medal hope in cycling, and she has been versatile and resilient in her long career. Last year, she broke her collarbone less than two weeks before the World Championships--then set a world record while winning the individual pursuit.
Watt, barely 5 feet tall, is one of the favorites in the road race again, with competition from Longo, Golay and Norway's Monika Valvik. Golay will also compete in the women's time trial and the points race, which is contested on the track.
In mountain biking, Canada's Alison Sydor has won the last two World Championships, but American Juli Furtado is stiff competition.
What We Know
The professionalization of the Olympics spreads to cycling this year, with the dashing pros of the Tour de France eligible to compete for the first time. The Olympic road race will come only 10 days after the mad sprint down the Champs Elysees to conclude the 2,418-mile Tour de France, but Lance Armstrong made it clear he was focusing on Atlanta even before he withdrew during the sixth stage because of bronchitis.
Armstrong, a 20-year-old prodigy in Barcelona as an amateur, gets an unusual second opportunity after finishing a disappointing 14th in 1992 and says he "would trade anything" for Olympic gold. His competition should include France's Laurent Jalabert and Italy's Mario Cipollini--although Miguel Indurain would be the favorite if he were to decide to compete.
In a sidelight, cyclists surely will pause to remember Italy's Fabio Casartelli, the gold medalist in Barcelona who was killed in last year's Tour de France after he lost control on a descent and flew headfirst into a concrete pylon.
What We Don't Know
For Indurain, winning an unprecedented sixth consecutive Tour de France would mean more than Olympic gold ever could.
But even though Indurain seems to indicate he won't compete in the road race in Atlanta, he could still win a gold medal for Spain in the individual time trial on Aug. 3.
Indurain has been vague about what he will do after the Tour de France, but it's considered likely he'll compete in the time trial, a road race against the clock that is being held for the first time.
A gold medal in that event could erase one of the few blemishes on his career. In 1984, a young Indurain competed in the road race in Los Angeles but failed to finish.
Someone You Should Know
The glamour is in the road race, but there could be a dramatic showdown on the track in the cat-and-mouse game of the match sprint between American Marty Nothstein, a two-time world champion, and 1994 bronze medalist Curt Harnett of Canada. The rivals have not faced each other in 1996. Australia's Darryn Hill is another contender for the gold.
In the 1,000-meter time trial, sometimes known as the killer-meter, 1994 bronze medalist Erin Hartwell has a chance for gold.
Building The Velodrome
The Olympic Velodrome is the first 100% temporary venue. The 250-meter oval will be dismantled after the Games, and put up for sale at a price of $600,000.
Track width: 24 feet
Total width: 190 feet
Spectator seating capacity: 6,000
Black pole line: Inner edge, riders prohibited
Red sprinter's line: 90 centimeters up from inner edge
Blue pacer lines: Mark middle of track, used for warmup
42 degree angle at center of the turns
Height: 16 feet
13 degree angle at center of straightaway
Height: 6 feet
Weight of entire track: 70,000 lbs.
Safety Zone: A 2-foot-wide ring called the cote d'azur is the transition area between the flat center and the banked track.
What it Took
75 tons of steel
35 tons of wood
12,262 screws used to secure wood panels to understructure
3,540 nuts and bolts
Base Detail: Made with 11 layers of plywood, it has a polyurethane coating called SkidGuard, a resin-like coating that is water-proof. The laminated waffle-weave surface provides skid resistance and is softer to fall on than concrete--and not likely to chip after a crash.
The Surface: Consists of 944 of the wood panels, each of which is 3-4 feet wide. It was designed with "zero bubble tolerance," meaning it is perfectly level, saving milliseconds that can accumulate on tracks with microscopic inclines.
Designing the Track: Using a computer-generated design, the all-steel structure consists of 20,000 individual parts welded together to form 238 trusses, which snap together to form the understructure.
How long it took: 9 months from design to completion (13 days to erect the steel understructure, 21 days to custom cut and attach wood surface).
Cost: $12.8 million
Sources: Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games; GT Bicycles, Inc.; USA Cycling; Dale Hughes, V96SG, INC., Associated Press; Researched by JULIE SHEER / Los Angeles Times