Track Cycling

It is one of the oldest disciplines in the Olympic Games, becoming one of the most attractive ones in international sport.

It takes place on a 250-meter oval track, called Velodrome, with banked curves that can reach a slope angle of 45º. Competitors need strength, stamina, speed and a lot of skill to move fast in each of the demanding events. Bicycles do not have breaks, nor shifts, they use a constant pedaling system with a fixed crank and competitors can reach speeds up to 70 km/h. This discipline has several events that you don't want to miss and also add points to the Olympic ranking towards Paris 2024.

In the picture, a male cyclist dressed with the Argentinian uniform is participating on a track cycling competition.

History of this sport

In 1833, in Leicester city, England, the first track cycling championship was carried out. Years later, Henry de Granges – founder of the Tour de France – established the sports’ first world record in the Buffalo Velodrome in Paris.

Given the sport’s popularity, in the Athens 1896 Games it was the first time track cycling was included, and since then it has been a part of the Olympic sports program. However, the women’s category had to wait until Seoul 1988 to make its debut.

In the Pan American Games, track cycling has been present since its first edition, and has become a fixed competition in all Games editions.

In the picture, a male cyclist dressed with the Argentinian uniform is participating on a track cycling competition.

How do athletes compete?

To understand in an easy manner the different events of track cycling, we will divide them in two: endurance or sprint. Sprint includes; Team sprint, Individual Sprint and Keirin, while endurance events include Team Pursuit, Omnium and Madison.

Two teams of three cyclists compete and they perform three laps on the track. One team starts from the finish line, and the other starts from the opposite side of the track’s finish line. The first rider does the first lap and withdraws, giving step to the second rider who also makes one lap, and it’s the third rider who established the time after completing the third lap. The race tests the skills and coordination of the teams, being an event with a lot of adrenaline due to how tight the results are, with the winner being the one with the least time.

It is one of the most attractive events in track cycling, since it is a competition where strategy has a huge relevance to obtain the victory. It starts with an individual qualification of each cyclist, who make 3.5 laps around the track, with the last 200 meters being timed and in accordance to the registered time by each cyclist, the following heats are decided. Sprint is an event that is disputed with 2 to 4 riders in the track. The cyclists make 3 laps to the track, and through a draw, it is decided who will take the first starting position, with two matches being done, with a possible third one to untie. Strength and skill are mixed by athletes to achieve a good result in this discipline, reaching speeds of 70 km/h.

Up to seven riders may compete in a 6-lap race. A pacer is used which circulates on the track and riders await it located on one side of the finish line, and when the pacer gets close, through a shot the start is marked so they can place themselves behind it In the given positions by the draw made prior to the start of the competition. The pacer increases its speed from 30 to 50 km/h up to the last 3 laps, moment where it leaves the track and allows the cyclist to use all their strength, speed and skills to become the first to cross the finish line.

It is done over a distance of 4km (16 laps) where two teams face each other. From the finish line one team starts and the other on the opposite side of the track’s finish line, and they try to make the lowest possible time and ideally catch up to the other team from behind. It is fascinating to see the team work that the cyclists show when they switch positions aiming to go as fast as possible, with each member giving their best when its their turn to lead the team. It is allowed for a team to finish the test with 3 cyclists being the third cyclist the one that sets the team’s time.

It is an event that includes 4 races in one day, and cyclists obtain their score in accordance to the position obtained in the first 3 tests that they participate in.
1. Scratch is a test where men race 10 km on the track (40 laps) and women 7.5 km on the track (30 laps) with a final sprint.
2. Tempo Race, it’s 10 km (40 laps) for men and 7.5 km (30 laps) for women. Cyclists race 4 laps and from the 5th lap the one that crosses the finish line first obtains one point up to the last lap. Whomever achieves +1 lap of advantage obtains 20 points.
3. Elimination, every other lap there is a bell and in the next lap the last one to cross the finish line is eliminated until one rider is left.
4. With the accumulated score of these tests, the last event is performed which is the Points Race. Whomever accumulates the most points in sprint, that are done every 10 laps, is the winner, proving to be a well-balanced cyclist (Strength, Endurance, Sprint and Skill).

It is a relay test between two athletes of the same country, men race 50 km (200 laps and 20 sprint) and women race 30 km (120 laps and 12 sprint) on the track. From the beginning of the test the riders make relays but contact, while moving, which is generally done by holding a hand and boosting the entering rider to reach quickly the racing speed. Sprints are done every 10 laps and the winner is the one with the greatest scores adding the sprints and the advantage laps that they have performed during the competition.

All the events we have mentioned include the term sprint that means that after each bell ring, riders increase their speed to the maximum possible to obtain a good position in the next lap which gives points to the top places, or it indicates the end of an event, and in the case of Elimination it indicates that in the next lap, the last cyclist to cross the finish line will be eliminated.

● Team Sprint (men/women)
● Sprint (men/women)
● Keirin (men/women)
● Team Pursuit (men/women)
● Omnium (men/women)
● Madison (men/women)


Track bicycles are different from road ones, do you know what is the difference?

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Information for the community

In Chile, track cycling has been a sport with a lot of followers, this is the reason why most remember the iconic velodrome in the National Stadium. However, the Peñalolén velodrome – inaugurated for the ODESUR 2014 Games – is the largest venue favored by track cycling, since it had high competition standards. If you’re interested in practicing this sport, we invite you to know and contact the Chilean Cycling Federation so they can guide you on how to practice this beautiful cycling discipline.

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