The omnium is the ultimate track cycling endurance test. It’s cycling’s equivalent of a decathlon or heptathlon – and pits the world’s toughest track cyclists against each other in a multi-discipline event.
There are eighteen entrants in both the men’s and women’s omnium, with only one athlete per nation. Riders compete over six events over two days, earning points, with the gold medal going to the rider with the highest score at the end of the competition.
The omnium begins with the scratch race – a traditional bunch race over 15km for men and 10km for women. That’s followed by the individual pursuit, 4km for men and 3km for women.
Event three is one of the most exciting velodrome races, the elimination race. This bunch race sees the last rider to cross the line every two laps eliminated, until one rider remains and takes the win.
The second day of the omnium begins with the time trial, with men posting their best times over 1km and women racing for 500m. Event five is the flying lap, a race against the clock over 200m with a flying start.
Throughout all of these events, the winner of each event gets 40 points, with the second placed rider getting 38, third placed earning 36 points, and so on.
The final event is the points race – 40km for men and 25km for women. Riders take the points earned over the previous five events into this race and can gain further points by placing in the top four in intermediate sprints, or by gaining a lap over the main field. Anyone lapped by the main field loses points.
The format of the omnium may change before the Tokyo Olympics, with the UCI announcing in October 2016 a new four event omnium for world championship and world cup events - with all four events taking place on a single day.
The individual pursuit, 1km/500m time trial and flying lap have all been dropped in the new format, with the scratch race, elimination race and points race remaining. In the scratch race, distances have been reduced to 10km for men and 7.5km for women, with the points race distances reduced to 25km for men and 20km for women.
They’ll be joined by a new event – the tempo race. Run over 10km for men, and 7.5km for women, this bunch race features a sprint on every lap after the first five laps, with the first rider across the line winning one point. Any riders who take a lap gain 20 points, with any riders lapped by the main field losing 20 points.
In the tempo race, as per the scratch and elimination, the winner of each event gets 40 points, with the second placed rider getting 38, third placed earning 36 points, and so on.
As previously, riders carry any points earned into the final event of the omnium, which remains as the points race – where there has been a slight tweak to the rules. Double points are now in play in the final sprint, in order to keep races competitive in the last lap. This change also applies to the non-omnium points race. Taking a lap still earns a rider 20 points, while being lapped loses a rider 20 points.
Organisers of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo scrapped plans to build a purpose-built, 5,000 seat velodrome for the Games in Tokyo Bay as part of cost-cutting measures. Track cycling will now be held at the Izu Velodrome, 120km to the south-west of Tokyo.
The Izu Velodrome has a 250m Siberian Spruce wooden track with 42 degree banking and opened in 2011 as the first indoor cycling track in the country. The venue currently has a 4,300 seat capacity.
Track cycling at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo is currently scheduled to take place from Thursday 30 July until Tuesday 4 August.
With Tokyo eight hours ahead of British Summer Time, it is believed that racing will take place at around 2am-3.30am (Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday, early sessions) and 8.30am-11am (all days, evening sessions) for UK audiences.
- Rio played host to men’s and women’s omnium events for only the second time in Olympic history.
- Great Britain’s Laura Trott is the only ever women’s Olympic omnium champion, having taken the gold medal at both London 2012 and Rio 2016.
- Her win in London was under the old format - before changes were introduced to finish omnium competitions on the points race, with points scored in that event counting towards overall totals.
- British men have reached the podium in both Olympic omniums. Ed Clancy won bronze in London before Mark Cavendish took silver in Brazil.
- The reigning men’s omnium Olympic champion is the Italian Elia Viviani who won gold in Rio.