Explaining the Track Cycling Formats

Gibbo August 3, 2012 0

The Sprint

The basics

The sprint is a race between two riders over three laps of the track.
The two riders start side by side, and on the starting signal set off, usually very slowly, before building up to a full-on sprint finish. It is an extremely tactical event, with some riders not wanting to be in the front for the full race, which is why they may slow down and use the full width of the track.

Competition format

The event starts with a 200m time trial to determine the rankings for the 16 riders in the first round. From then on the competition is a knockout, going to quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final, which are all the best of three heats.


The Keirin

The basics

The race is conducted over eight laps of the track. Riders compete in a sprint after following a motorised pacer who leaves the track just over 600 metres before the finish.

Riders line up along the start line, their positions drawn by lot. The motorbike approaches on the inside lane and as it passes the start line, the rider on the inside must take up position behind the derny unless another rider takes the position first.

The motorbike crosses the start line at a pace of 30km/h (25km/h in the women’s race) and achieves a maximum speed of 50km/h (45km/h in the women’s race), with the riders pacing behind.


With 2.5 laps of the track left to go the pacer pulls off and the riders sprint for the finish. The first rider to cross the line is the winner.

Competition format

The event starts with heats (with repechages), with the best 12 riders progressing to the second round. The top six riders go through from the second round to the final, with the bottom six competing again for 7th–12th place rankings.



The Team Sprint

The basics

Two teams race against each other, starting on opposite sides of the track. Each member of the team must lead for one lap.

The men’s Team Sprint is contested over three laps of the track, with three riders in a team; the women’s event is two laps with two riders.

The first team to cross the finish line is the winner.


Competition format

The Team Sprint starts with a qualifying round, with the best eight teams going forward to the first round (4th v 5th, 3rd v 6th, 2nd v 7th, 1st v 8th). The four winning teams in the first round contest the medals, with the two teams with the fastest times competing for gold, and the other two teams going head to head for bronze. The remaining four teams are ranked fifth to eighth in accordance with their first round times.




The Team Pursuit

The basics

Two opposing teams start on either side of the track. The winner is the team who either catches the other team, or records the fastest time over the full distance.

The men’s Team Pursuit is 4km, with four athletes in each team; the women’s event is 3km with teams of three riders.


A team is caught when the opposing team (or three out of the four in the men’s race) comes within 1m of the other team.

Competition format

The Team Pursuit starts with a qualifying round. Teams are seeded in the first round according to their qualifying times – the fastest team competes against the fourth fastest, second competes against third, fifth against eighth and sixth against seventh. The winners of the two heats between the top four teams advance to the finals; the remaining six teams are ranked according to their times from the first round, with the best two teams competing for bronze.



The Omnium

The Omnium consists of six events:

– Flying lap: this is a race against the clock.
– Points race (30km for men, 20km for women): riders score points for sprints which occur every 10 laps during the race, and for lapping the field.
– Elimination race: a bunch race with an intermediate sprint every two laps; the last rider each time is eliminated.
– Individual pursuit: (4,000m for men, 3,000m for women): two riders start at opposite sides of the track and race against the clock.
– Scratch race: This is a straightforward race over 16km for men and 10km for women. The first rider to cross the line wins.– Time trial (1km for men, 500m for women): Each competitor rides the course aiming for the fastest time.

Competition format

In each event the winner gets one point, the second placed rider gets two points, the third three points, and so on. At the end of all six events the rider with the lowest total score is the winner.