If you want to describe track cycling, the comparison with “track and field” would suit best. Both have much in common. Competitions in a stadium, a wide range of athletes. From short sprint, to long intense races: track cycling represents speed, endurance, technique, tactics and nerves: spectacular races.
11 events divided into three categories: sprint, endurance and combined.
- Individual sprint *
- Team sprint *
- Keirin *
- Kilometer time trial (or 500 m for women)
- Individual pursuit
- Team pursuit *
- Points race
- Scratch race
- Omnium *
* Part of the Olympic program
Individual sprint *
Competition begins with a flying lap, a timed 200 meter individual run which decides the ranking for the knockout rounds. These series then consist of a head-to-head contest between two riders over three laps of the track. The athletes race three heats. The rider who wins two out of three races is the winner. Racing is highly tactical yet explosive, with slow “cat and mouse” battles followed by all-out drag races for the finish line.
Team sprint *
With a standing start, the team sprint involves three riders over three laps for the men and two riders over two laps for the women. Each team rider performs one lap and leaves the track. Races are short and thrilling, with titles decided by thousandths of a second. After the heats, the two best teams line up to contest the final. Those who registered the 3rd and 4th fastest times meet up in a B final which decides the last place available on the podium.
Japanese for “fight”, the keirin is one for the sprinters. Six riders jostle for the best tactical position behind a pacing motorbike, called a derny. The pace is increased (from 30 to 50 km/h for men and from 25 to 45 km/h for women) over a series of laps. When there is no more than two and a half laps to go, the derny leaves the track and it’s a straight fight for the finish line. Often physical and explosive, the ‘fight’ always lives up to its name.
Kilometer time trial (or 500 m for women)
A pure standing start effort, the time trial is an individual race against the clock. The competitor with the best time is the winner.
Individual sprint *
Two riders start simultaneously from a standing start on opposite sides of the track and “pursue” each other for 4000 meters for men and 3000 meters for women. After qualifying, the two fastest riders vie for gold and silver, while the third and fourth compete for bronze. In the finals, if a rider catches his opponent, the race is over. If no one is caught, the best time determines the winner.
Team pursuit *
This event is similar to the individual pursuit. The 4000 m distance is performed by teams of four athletes, for women as well as for men. The importance of technique is enhanced as the riders in each team ride just centimeters apart from one another. They usually change leader every half lap, with the rider at the front of their team swinging up the banking then down again to rejoin the team at the rear. The winning team is the one that manages to catch its opponents, or that records the fastest time. The time is measured on the third rider of the team to cross the line.
The times posted during the qualifying round decide the places for the first round (1st Round). The top eight teams are matched against each other as follows: 1st vs. 4th; 2nd vs. 3rd; 5th vs. 8th; and 6th vs. 7th. The winners from the races between the 1st-4th and the 2nd-3rd automatically qualify for the final round where the gold and silver medal winners will be decided. All other teams (3rd to 8th) will race a secondary final based on the times posted in the first round thus: 3rd vs. 4th; 5th vs. 6th; and 7th vs. 8th. The rankings starting with the 9th place team is based on the times achieved in the qualifying round.
The points race is a bunch event over a set distance of 40 km for men and of 25 km for women, with points (5, 3, 2, and 1) available at intermediate sprints (every 10 laps on a 250m-track) for the first four riders across the line. 20 points are also given to the rider that achieves to lap the field. The rider with the most points at the end wins. The points race is one of the most physically and mentally demanding of the track disciplines, with speed, stamina, technical skill and tactical awareness all required in large amounts.
The scratch race is a bunch race over 15 km for men and 10 km for women. The first across the line wins. Despite its simplicity, the scratch race is an enthralling contest, with breakaways, lap gains and bunch sprints. It makes it an incredibly tactical event full of intrigue.
Elimination is an event where riders are eliminated one by one during the race. Every two laps (on a 250m-track) the last across the finish line must leave the track. The classification is thus established backwards, from the last (the first to be eliminated) to the first (the winner). Note that, unlike by sprints, it is the rear wheel that is judged on the line. This event therefore demands not only tactics and observation, but also good endurance to maintain the pace without being eliminated. Finally, when no more than two riders are on the track, it is the final sprint that will crown the winner.
Notice that this year is the first edition of this event in the European Championships Program. You will therefore have the opportunity to see the very first European Champions for the Elimination race in the history of the Track European Championships!
The Madison is named after Madison Square Gardens in New York, one of the birthplaces of track racing. The Madison is a relay event for teams of two riders over 50 km. While one team member is in the race, the other slows down and recovers by riding on the upper part of the track. The classification is established first by the distanced covered (lap gains), and then by the points won in the intermediate sprints (5, 3, 2, 1 pts). The tactics and the interplay between the riders are fascinating. Focus on the jerseys of one key team and you’ll be able to follow what’s going on.
The omnium is a multi-event (6) discipline akin to the decathlon in athletics. An event for all types of riders with a mix of sprint, endurance, individual and bunch events, the whole on two days of competition. Riders are scored according to finishing position in each event and receive points according to the scoring system below. The last discipline, the points race is often crucial because the won or lost points by the riders are directly added to their total. At the end of the 6th event, the rider with the highest number of points overall is crowned the winner of the Omnium.
Scoring system (for each event):
40 points for first place, 38 pts for second place, 36 pts for third place à and working its way down to 21st place.
Riders in 21st place and below will be awarded 1 point each.
The 6 Events
Men: Scratch race (15km) – Individual pursuit (4km) – Elimination – Kilometer Time Trial – Flying lap (200m) – Points race (40km)
Women: Scratch race (10km) – Individual pursuit (3km) – Elimination – 500m Time Trial – Flying lap (200m) – Points race (25km)