Sprint events are short in duration and require raw power over endurance and strength. Tactics play a large role in the Sprint and Keirin competitions requiring riders to play cat and mouse with their opponent to gain the upper hand.
Below is a description of each sprint event.
Even though the Sprint event is short in distance and duration, it relies heavily on tactics and bike craft.
Only the last 200m of the 1000m total are timed, resulting in explosive bursts of speed in the last few seconds.
Riders line up vertically on the track from a stationary position. The Sprint is won in a best of three race contest and riders will alternate their riding start position.
The Sprint is a game of cat and mouse with the lead rider often dictating how the race will play out, not wanting to provide a drafting opportunity for the rider behind. As a result, the lead rider will often try to slow down, forcing the following rider to the front or riding slow enough to not provide any advantage. Riders will often come to a complete stop to make this happen.
Rules in the sprint stipulate there must be no backward movement, so riders will ‘track-stand’, holding themselves in a stationary position on the track waiting for the other rider to break first and roll to the front. Officials can call a truce on this and either re-start the sprint or tell the riders to move on if they feel the race is being hindered by these negative tactics.
Riders compete against each other one on one, the first across the line wins the sprint.
The Team Sprint is one of the most explosive events on the track program. Competing teams (three for the men and two for the women) start on opposite sides of the velodrome from a stationary position and complete either three laps for men or two laps for women as fast as possible. Each lap must be led by a different team member who then drops out at the end of their lap.
Each rider needs to ride as hard as possible while also keeping in tight formation to provide some assistance to the final rider who has to ride the furthest. The team with their final rider across the line first wins.
The Keirin is one of the fastest track cycling events thanks to a motor pacer that sets the pace before releasing the riders to sprint for victory.
Riders perform 8 laps of the 250m track initially following the motor-pacer, typically a small motorbike or electronic bike, that starts slowly (approximately 25kph) and gradually increases in speed (approximately 50kph) while riders line-up behind, ready to attack when they are released.
Riders cannot attack over the top of the motor-pacer and have to wait until it exits the track, which will happen with 700m to go. Strong riders on the final lap of a Keirin can reach speeds in excess of 70kph approaching the finish line!
In contrast to sprint events, endurance races require strength, stamina and rely heavily on tactics. Very often road cyclists compete in track endurance events as the physical demands are not far removed from riding on the road. Endurance track riders also make very good road riders adn for this reason AusCycling development pathways prioritise track endurance riding in junior ranks.
Below is a description of each endurance event.
Teams of two compete over 200 laps (50km), or a time limit with a similar set of rules to the Points Race. Each team must have one rider racing at all times, while the other rests. Changeovers can only occur via touch, normally in the form of a push or in modern times a ‘sling’ motion to help propel the riders along the track. Sprints are held every 20 laps with 5, 3, 2, 1 points being awarded for the top four finishers.
Riders start together and are eliminated if they are the last across the line on specific laps. Unlike most races, the action tends to take place at the back of the pack in the elimination. Every two laps the rider at the back of the race is eliminated – all the way through until there are only two riders left, who sprint it out for the win. It’s not possible to “take a lap” in an elimination race.
The scratch race is the simplest of all the track events. The rider who crosses the finish line first wins. The distances vary according to age group from 4 to 10km.
This is the premiere event in junior endrance cycling, as teh results of this ride against the clock is central to state team selection. Individual Pursuit races range from 1,000m to 4,000m. Riders begin the individual pursuit on opposite sides of the track from a stationary start and race against the clock to ride the distance as fast as possible. In older age groups these races are completed with time trial bars attached to the bike.
The Points race is one of the hardest to follow for newcomers to track cycling due to the large amount of points up for grabs and number of cyclists on the track at the one time. Races are up to 20km depending on age groups. A designated laps there is a sprint and 5, 3, 2, 1 points given to the first four riders across the line. On top of those points, if a rider was to lap the field they are awarded 20 points. Tactics play a huge role in the Points race because some riders will contest every sprint, while others will sit back, wait for riders to get tired and then try to lap the field to earn big points.
The Omnium is the ultimate event for all-round track cyclists, comprising of six different events raced over two days that require a mix of power and endurance. It’s cycling’s Decathlon equivalent.
The events include:
- Scratch race:
- Individual pursuit:
- Elimination race:
- Time trial:
- Flying lap:
- Points race
The Omnium is a complicated event and requires consistency from the riders to achieve a good result. Below is how the event is scored and won;
The goal of the Omnium is for riders to obtain as many points as possible. The rider with the highest point total at the end of the six events will win. Riders also have to finish each event of the Omnium to win overall. Riders receive points based on their placing in each event. For the first five events, scoring is as follows.
The winner receives 40 points, second place receives 38 points, third place receives 36 points and so on. This pattern continues down to the 21st placed rider and below, who receive one point for finishing.
During the final event, the Points Race, riders can add points from their total by gaining laps and via winning points in the sprints. If the scores are tied at the end of the Points Race, the places in the final sprint will be used to decide a winner.
The Team Pursuit is a combination of the Team Sprint and the Individual Pursuit. It is a race against the clock, four riders covering 4km for the men and three riders covering 3km for the women.
Teams start on opposite sides of the track in a stationary position and ride as fast as possible. Teams will ride in a line as close as possible to each other to minimise drag and get a draft advantage, making it easier for the riders sitting behind. Once a rider has done their turn on the front they will swing up the track allowing the other riders to come through before tagging on to the back of the line. The time is taken from the third rider across the line so teams need to effectively work together to make sure they don’t burn each other out. It is a fine line between going hard enough to win the race, and going too hard and blowing your teammates up.
If one team catches another the race is over and that team declared the winner.
There are a number of skills and terms used in track cycling that are seldom used elsewhere in the two-wheeled universe, below are a few of them and that they mean.
- Derny: A motorised bicycle used to set the pace in racing events such as the Keirin.
- Track Stand: Is a technique commonly used by track riders where riders can maintain balance upright coming to a complete standstill. It is a technique commonly used by sprinters to out fox their opponents
- Kilo: An event where riders must race against the clock over 1000m from a standing start. Frenchman, François Pervis, is the current world record holder clocking in a time of 56.30 seconds from a standing start!
- Sling: A technique used in the Madison where a rider links arms, or hands with their team mate, slinging them forward.
- Devil: Another term for the Elimination race. The race gets this nickname as the elimination race is typically riddled with crashes as riders attempt to move up into a safer position.
- Pista: An Italian term for “track”. Track bikes and their components commonly use this moniker to differentiate them from their road and offroad going counterparts.
Content provided by Bike Exchange and Hunter Brothers Cycling, Six Day Australia, Bespoke Chainrings, and Cycling Australia.