Road Cycling

Olympic Track Cycling Events | Rio 2016 What Are the Velodrome Disciplines?

A guide to the track cycling disciplines being contested at Rio

Men’s Keirin – Photo: Wikipedia org

Olympic track cycling events, there’s plenty of ’em. From Sprint to Team Pursuit each track cycling discipline has its own rules and peculiarities that make it different from all the rest, and don’t get us started on the weirdly named ones like Keirin or Omnium. Most people wouldn’t even know what an Omnium was if it ran them over. Or even if it could run them over. So if you’re head scratching about the upcoming Olympic track cycling events, put those shampoo scented finger tips down and take a gander at Mpora’s guide to track cycling in Rio 2016.


What is it?

Head to head, single bike racing.

What are the rules?

Two cyclists face off against each other with a staggered rolling start, completing a warm up lap around the track before breaking into a sprint for the finish. The first cyclist past the line wins the race with the best of three races deciding the medal winner.

During the warm up lap cyclists can ride anywhere on the track but once the sprint has begun they can not change lanes unless they have a clear lead over their opponent.

During the warm up lap, riders are also allowed to perform a track stand, coming to a complete stop on the track while keeping their feet on the bike. This is a common tactic used to prevent the rider behind getting any aerodynamic advantage from the lead rider’s slipstream, which makes it easier to cycle, saving energy for the final sprint. Track stands can only be held for a short period of time though and you can not rock backwards and forwards while doing one.

Who’s won in the past?

Jason Kenny took gold for Great Britain in 2012, while Anna Meares won the women’s event for Australia.

Who’s competing for Team GB in Rio?

Though team GB track cycle athletes aren’t confirmed yet, expect to see Jason Kenny back in the riding seat and, with Victoria Pendelton switching from bikes to thoroughbreds, Becky James or Katie Marchant are in with a good chance for the women’s event.

Update: Becky James, Katie Marchant, Jessica Varnish and Jason Kenny have all now been confirmed for the Sprint.

Team Sprint

What is it?

Two teams go head to head over a short distance race.

What are the rules?

For the men’s event, two teams of three cyclists start on opposite sides of the track. Both teams then race over three laps with a different rider leading each lap. First past the post wins. The women’s team sprint is exactly the same except that a women’s team has two riders who race for two laps.

Who’s won in the past?

Britain topped the table at London 2012 with Philip Hindes, Chris Hoy and Jason Kenny bringing home the gold. On the women’s front, Germany took Olympic honours with Kristina Vogel

Who’s competing for Team GB in Rio?

Jason Kenny, Matt Crampton and possibly Callum Skinner are the men’s names to watch out for. Sadly team GB didn’t qualify for the women’s event.

Update:  Jason Kenny, Callum Skinner and Philip Hindes have now been confirmed for Team Sprint.


What is it?

Riders follow a motorised pace bike until they are up to speed before sprinting for the finish line.

What are the rules?

Six individual riders complete 6.5 laps behind a motorised pace bike known as a derny. Riders are not allowed to overtake the derny but once it leaves the track there is a 2.5 lap sprint to the finish. The women’s race is identical to the men’s except for having 5.5 paced laps.

Who’s won in the past?

Thunder thighs Chris Hoy scooped gold in the men’s event and Victoria Pendleton made it another GB double in the women’s.

Who’s competing for Team GB in Rio?

GB workhorse Jason Kenny could make an appearance for the men’s event with Becky James or possibly Katy Marchant in for the women.

Update: Jason Kenny and Beck James have now been confirmed for the Keirin. 


Team Pursuit

What is it?

A longer distance race between two teams.

What are the rules?

Two teams of four riders start on opposite sides of the track. The first team to complete 4km wins but the race also ends if either team catches up to the other. Women’s team races take place over a 3km distance.

Who’s won in the past?

At London 2012 Ed Clancy, Geraint Thomas, Steven Burke and Peter Kennaugh took gold for Britain and Team GB’s women Danielle King, Laura Trott and Joanna Rowsell also brought home the gold, setting a new world record in the process.

Who’s competing for Team GB in Rio?

Expect to see Laura Trott and Joanna Rowsell-Shand return for the women’s event possibly cycling alongside Elinor Barker and Ciara Horne. For the men Ed Clancy should be back, probably riding with UCI team mates Owain Doull, Jonathan Dibben and Sir Bradley Wiggins.

Update: For the men’s event Steven Burke, Mark Cavendish, Ed Clancy, Owain Doull and Sir Bradley Wiggins have been confirmed.

For the women’s event Katie Archibald, Elinor Barker, Ciara Horne, Joanna Rowsell-Shand and Laura Trott have been confirmed.


What is it?

A multi event race where riders complete across a series of different race types to decide an overall winner.

What are the rules?

Omnium consists of six events with riders being awarded points based on their placing in each race. During the first five events, riders get 40 points for coming first, 38 for second place, 36 for third etc. until you reach twenty first place. All riders at this level and below get just one point. Scoring for the final event, the points race, runs differently. The rider with the highest combined total across all six events wins the competition.

The six events are:

Flying Lap: An individual time trial over 250m (usually one lap of the track).

Scratch Race: A straightforward race where everyone starts at the same time with the first rider over the line taking the win. Race distances are 15km for men and 10km for women.

Elimination Race: Competitors race to complete a number of laps equal to twice the number of riders, so an elimination race with 20 riders in it would go on for 40 laps. Every two laps the rider in last place is eliminated until you are left with just one rider who wins the race.

Individual Pursuit: Two individual racers start on opposite sides of the track trying to be the first to complete 4km in the men’s event and 3km for the women. Riders can also win if they manage to catch up to their opponent.

Time Trial: Two riders start on opposite sides of the track and race to have the best time over a distance of 500m for women and 1km for men.

Points Race: This is the final event of the Omnium. Riders take their current points total with them, gaining points for being first place on certain laps and for lapping the rest of the field while losing a point for every lap they complete in last place. Men race over 30km and women over 20km, with highest point scorer at the end of this race winning the Omnium.

Who’s won in the past?

2012 honours went to Danish rider Lasse Norman Hansen in the men’s event while Team GB legend Laura Trott brought us home another gold.

Who’s competing for Team GB in Rio?

Taking first in the 2016 UCI world championships Laura Trott seems to be a shoo-in for the women’s spot while Mark Cavendish or John Dibben are likely riders for the men’s event.

Update: Laura Trott and Mark Cavendish have now been confirmed for the Omnium.

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