Cycling has different categories of racing like road bicycle racing, track cycling, cycle speedway, BMX and mountain bike racing. Europe is where the sport has the most traction. The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) governs competitive cycling events internationally whereas ultra-distance races are governed by the UltraMarathon Cycling Association. Early forms of cycling races were conducted using boneshaker-type bicycles. Besides Europe, cycling as a sport is quite popular in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.
There are individual and team events in road bicycle racing. There are different categories of competitions with 'Grand Tours' like the Tour de France that are multi-stage coming at the highest level. Other competition types include one-day road race, time trial and criterium. In the time trial version, either an individual (ITT) or a team (TTT) races against the clock. Criterium races have a number of laps to be completed around a closed circuit that ranges from 400 m to 10,000 m. Races are usually held from Spring to Autumn, riders often switch hemispheres in the winter to adapt and train.
The three major professional cycling races with stages in Europe, Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana, are collectively referred to as Grand Tours in road bicycle racing. All three races have the same format spanning three weeks, every day being a different stage. The UCI regulations confer higher status on Grand Tours with more points given to them as part of the UCI World Tour. No other stage race than the Grand Tours is allowed to last longer than two weeks. Of the three, the most prestigious is the Tour de France. The points achieved in it carry more weightage than those in its Italian and Spanish counterparts.
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