2008 U.S. Olympic Team Cycling Skinsuit

This short sleeve track cycling skinsuit was worn by American Bobby Lea (b. 1983) when he competed in the Madison event during the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, held in Beijing, China. Lea, a multiple-time national champion in the Madison and numerous other track cycling events, finished 1st in the Scratch Race at the 2012 Pan American Championships and competed in the Omnium at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
The Madison is raced on an oval cycling track, also called a velodrome, and is named after its first venue, Madison Square Garden in New York City. It is also known as “The American Race” or course à l'américaine in French and Americana in Italian and Spanish.
The Madison event held at the 2008 Summer Olympics took place at the 250 meter Laoshan Velodrome in Beijing, China on August 19th. The race was 50 kilometers long and lasted for 200 laps. Bobby Lea and his partner Michael Friedman finished in 16th place overall. An Olympic event since 2000, the Madison’s final year of Olympic competition was at the 2008 games.
The Madison event began after late 19th century legal restrictions were placed on the popular Six Day races held in velodromes around the United States. The original format of these races had individual riders racing 24 hours a day for six consecutive days. While the event was very popular with crowds, and riders were paid extremely well, the demands of riding continuously for six days took a mental and physical toll on the racers.
Eventually, laws were passed in New York State and Illinois in 1898 that prevented cyclists in six-day races from racing longer than 12 hours at a time. Not wanting to close the venue for half of the day, the promoter of the Madison Square Garden Six Day races changed the event to use teams of two or three, allowing the races to go on for 24 hours, without having individual riders exceed the 12 hour limit.
Today, the format of the Madison consists of teams of riders, usually two, racing for a set distance on the velodrome. No longer a 24 hour/six-day long event, the goal of the race is for one team to finish their laps before the others. Because only a single rider from each team can participate in the race at a time, one rider races around the bottom of the track trying to gain laps or hold position on the other teams, while the other rides at a slower pace, resting, near the top of the track. Teammates in the Madison swap positions after being tagged in by the other rider, though more commonly they are launched into the race with a push or a hand-sling motion.
The Madison continues to be an annual Cycling World Championship event and is often featured in a shortened format alongside other track events at modern six-day races.
Currently not on view
Object Name
cycling skinsuit, summer olympics
cycling skinsuit
used date
Lea, Bobby
Nike, Inc.
Physical Description
synthetic elastic fabric (overall material)
white (overall color)
dark blue (overall color)
red (overall color)
gray (overall color)
medium blue (overall color)
metal (zipper material)
overall: 36 in x 28 in; 91.44 cm x 71.12 cm
Zhonghua: Beijing Shi, Beijing
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Olympic Summer Games: Beijing, 2008
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Sport and Leisure
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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