Track events are split into two categories: Sprint events and Endurance events. As you’ve probably noticed, the sprint events are contested by massive rhinos such as Chris Hoy and Shane Perkins (although Azizulhasni Awang is a notable exception). They require short explosive efforts and are very tactical with positioning. Endurance events are typically the upbringing of the road racer.

Note: I’ve used many of these event descriptions from Wikipedia, BBC (illustrations), surrounded with my own comments.

If video is your preference, BikeRadar produced some excellent videos on all these events here.

Sprint Events

Men’s/Women’s Team Sprint

The Team sprint (also sometimes known as the Olympic sprint) is not a conventional sprint event. In the men’s event, a three-man team time trial held over three laps, and in the women’s event, a two-woman event held over two laps. Similar to the team pursuit event, two teams race against each other, starting on opposite sides of the track. The team with the fastest time is the winner.

The men’s world record time was set on Thursday in London by the British team of Philip Hindes, Chris Hoy, and Jason Kenny to win the Gold Final against the French. The women’s record of 32.422 seconds was also set on Thursday in London by the Chinese pair of Guo Shuang and Gong Jinjie in London.

Men’s/Women’s Team Pursuit

The team pursuit is similar to the individual pursuit, except that two teams start on opposite sides of the velodrome.

The men’s event is competed over a distance of 16 laps, 4 km, by a team of 4 riders. The new women’s event is competed over a distance of 12 laps, 3 km, by a team of three riders.

The objective is to cover the distance in the fastest time. Riders in a team follow each other closely and the lead rider peels off the front, swings up the track banking and rejoins the team at the rear. Since the winning team is decided by the third rider, it is common for one rider to take a “death pull” where he buries himself such that he cannot maintain the group-pace afterwards and drops off. This allows his team-mates to briefly recover behind him before they make a final three-man acceleration towards the finish line.

Who To Watch Out For In London?

Great Britain versus Australia. Update: Last night (Friday) Great Britain set its second world record in the final heat of the men’s team pursuit against Australia to win the team’s second consecutive Olympic gold medal in 3:51.659. In the bronze medal final, the Russians were defeated by New Zealanders in a time of 3:55.952. Full story here.

Men’s/Women’s Keirin

The Keirin is a sprint event  In 2000, the sport became an official cycling event at the Olympic Games. London 2012 will be the first women’s keirin event in Olympic history.

The Keirin, which involves eight laps (on a 250m track like London’s) is a mass-start race where the riders are paced behind a derney (motorcycle). Lots are drawn to determine starting positions behind the derney. Once it passes the start, riders are required to remain behind the pacer for 6 laps. Initially it circles the track at the slow speed of about 25 km/hr and gradually increases to about 50 km/hr. The derney pulls off on the second last lap and the first rider to finish the race from this point is the winner (finishing at speeds of around 70 km/hr).

Who To Watch Out For In London?

Sir Chris Hoy (UK), Victoria Pendleton and Anna Meares (Aus) are some names to watch out for but I’ll have my eye on AzizulAwang for the sheer joy of watching one of the most inspirational riders (to me) in the race.

Update: The Men’s Keirin has yet to be run but Victoria Pendleton became the first woman to win Olympic gold in the keirin as the event debuted in London last night. Full story here.

Endurance Events – Omnium

Typical track endurance events are the the Individual Pursuit, the Points Race, and the Madison. However, for the 2012 London Olympics there was a controversial change to switch this to the Omnium. Gender equality is the reason given by the IOC:

In Beijing there were only 35 female track cycling competitors, but in London this will rise to 84. The IOC has removed the individual pursuit, points race and men’s madison events to make way for three new women’s events.

The winner of the Omnium is unlikely to be a specialist of any of these events, but rather a jack of all trades.

The Men’s and Women’s Omnium will be held over two days in which all riders compete against each other in six different disciplines (three sprint and three endurance). It is also balanced between 3 time trials and 3 mass start events. The omnium determines the best all-round track cyclist based on accumulated points for each race. Generally, the omnium suits endurance riders with higher top speed and a strong sprint.

The omnium consists of the following disciplines, in order:

Points are rewarded in reverse order. The rider who finishes first in an event receives one point, the second rider will get two points and so on. The rider with the fewest points after all events is the winner. When two riders are tied on points, the combined time of the 3 time trials will break the tie amongst the riders. A rider must have completed every event in the omnium.

Omnium was introduced into the World Championships under the 5-race format for men in 2007 and for women in 2009. The omnium was changed in 2010 by the UCI to include aelimination race in 2010 and the distances of the events were lengthened to favor endurance cyclists.

Who To Watch Out For In London?

The 2012 World Champions in the Omnium are Glenn O’Shea (Australia), Zach Bell (Canada) and Lasse Norman Hansen (Denmark).