Cycling at London 2012: About the track event
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Olympic Velodrome

Image: London 2012

  Olympic track events can be split into two main types - sprint events, which generally last for less than two minutes and endurance events which can be up to 40km in length.

Sprint events

Team sprint: Three man teams ride three laps of the track (equating to 750m on Olympic standard 250m Tracks). After the first lap, the first rider peels off and plays no further part in the race. After the second lap the second rider also pulls off, leaving the third rider to complete the event and record the team's time. Technically demanding, the aim is for the first two riders to shield and slipstream the third rider for two laps (slipstreaming can save up to 30% of energy) leaving them relatively fresh for the last lap. Usually ridden two teams at a time (starting opposite sides of the track) with a qualifying round, with the four fastest winning teams going through to the finals for gold/silver and bronze. Note, the Women's version involves teams of two, riding two laps in total.

Keirin: The Keirin (Japanese for "fight") is a race in which riders sprint for the line after completing a series of laps behind a single motorbike pacer (derny). The pacer gradually builds up speed, with riders jockeying for position behind (riders must not pass the "derny" until it pulls off). The derny pulls onto the track infield with two and a half laps to go and from then on it's a straight race to the line. Tactical and often very physical, it's a great spectator event. Usually ridden with heats, repechage and major (medals) and minor placings finals.

Match sprint: Simple head-to-head sprinting between two riders over three laps of the track. At the highest level there is usually a qualifying 200m flying start time trial to organise the seeding. From then on there are a series of 3-lap two-rider knockout rounds leading to quarter-finals, semis and the final. Earlier rounds often feature single heats with a repechage element offering a way back in for defeated riders. The quarters, semis and finals are usually ridden on a best of three heats basis, with no way back for defeated riders.

Endurance events

Team pursuit: Men race in teams of four over 4000m and women in teams of three over 3000m. The riders start together and quickly form up into a line astern. The riders then share the "workload", with the lead rider staying at the front for only a lap or so before swinging up the track (right) and re-joining the three or four rider line at the back. The lead rider may have to produce 30% more power to maintain the team's speed than the following riders who are sheltering in his/her slipstream. A highly technical event, team-mates often ride only centimetres apart to maximise slipstreaming effects. In the men's event, times are taken on the third rider of the team to cross the line: the slowest rider in a team often sacrifices himself in later stages of the event and pulls up the track to let his team-mates complete the race without him.

Omnium: A discipline where riders compete over a series of races to find the best all-round/most consistent rider. Points are awarded so that the winner of each individual event scores one point, second scores two, third scores three, etc. The rider with the lowest aggregate score at the end of the competition is the winner. A relatively new event at World Championship level, it makes its debut at the Olympics in London 2012. The event is typically made up of the following:

250m flying lap: riders timed individually against the clock from a flying start

Scratch race - 15km/60 lap (women 10km/40 lap) : The riders race together with the first over the line the winner.

Individual pursuit, 4000m men, 3000m Women: riders are timed individually.

Elimination race: The riders compete together, with the last rider over the line eliminated every lap. The final three riders then contest a final sprint to decide the winner.

Points race: 120 laps Men, 80 laps Women: All the riders race together. There are intermediate "sprints" every ten laps at which the first four riders over the line score 5,3,2 and 1 points each. The aim is to pick up as many points as possible as the final result is based on the riders' final tally of points. Additionally, a 20 point bonus is awarded to anyone lapping the main field.

Kilo (men) 500m time trial (women) riders timed individually from a standing start.

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