Track Cycling 101

Track Cycling is a bicycle racing sport. It differs from road cycling in many respects, the two most obvious are it is held on a closed and purpose built track with banked turns and secondly the bicycle used has a single fixed gear and no brakes.

Track Cycling is one of the oldest sporting events in North America, dating to around 1870, when American Football was in its infancy. It is an ideal spectator sport since, unlike road cycling, entrance fees can be charged and the track facilities can offer unimpeded views of the events. Madison Square Garden (MSG), the famous hockey arena, original home of the New York Rangers, was formerly a premier location for Track racing in North America. The “Madison” race was created at MSG and takes its name.

Race Formats

Track cycling is generally divided into two broad categories: sprint events and endurance events. The GVVA League racing nights are organized around these two categories with Monday night racing focussed on sprint events and Thursday night for endurance events.

Sprint events focus on short distances requiring tremendous power to defeat the opponent. Whereas endurance events, as the name suggests, require that the athlete have well conditioned aerobic capacity and overall strength to defeat many opponents over longer distances.

Sprint specialists tend to focus their training exclusively on sprint events, rarely participating in endurance events. Conversely, endurance athletes tend to focus on endurance events and specifically the Omnium, an event comprising six races held over a couple days.

Sprint Events

Sprint events are held at the Westshore Velodrome on Monday nights as part of GVVA League Racing series.

Flying Lap

A timed event covering 200m with a flying start. Depending on the size of the track, riders have between one and three laps to build up speed before the clock starts. They will ride around the very top of the track as they near the start line, then drop down to the bottom to gain as much speed as possible from rolling down the steep inclined banking. The Flying Lap is used as a qualifying race for the Match Sprints and as one of six Omnium events.

 

500m Time Trial

The “500 TT” event is a straight out race against the clock from a standing start over 500 metres. A 500m TT is 1.5 laps of the Westshore Velodrome. Riders will keep to the black line at the bottom of the track to ensure they have to cover the least distance over the event.
 

1000m Time Trial or “kilo”

This event is a straight out race against the clock from a standing start over 1000m, and on our velo is 3 laps. Riders will keep to the black line at the bottom of the track to ensure they have to cover the least distance over the kilometre.
 

Matched Sprint

Riders start by doing a qualifying Flying 200m sprint. Based on times, riders are paired up. The riders then race against each other for 2 or 3 laps. The early parts of each race will often be highly tactical with riders pedaling slowly, as they carefully jockey for position, often trying to force their opponents up high on the track in an attempt to get their rivals to make the first move. Some even bring their bicycles to a complete stop, balanced upright with both feet still on the pedals (a track stand. Fun to race and exciting to watch!
 

Team Sprint

The Team Sprint (formerly Olympic Sprint) is a fast and exciting race, It has the same starting format as the team pursuit, but with only three riders per team. In this race, after each lap the lead rider ‘peels off’ out of the race. By the final lap there is only one rider left sprinting to the finish line.
 

Keirin

This is the predominant form of competitive cycling in Japan, where the race originated. Fans go to the Keirin meets and bet on the outcome. Up to eight cyclists start in a single file along the track. A motorcycle paces the field, leading them faster and faster around the track for three laps until it peels off. Then the riders are free to sprint for the finish line. Strength, courage and aggression are required to get the optimum position for the final lunge for the line.
 

Endurance Events

Endurance events are held Thursday nights as part of the GVVA League Racing series.

Scratch Race

scratch race is a race in which all riders start together and the object is simply to be first over the finish line after a predetermined number of laps. There are no intermediate points or sprints.

Points Race

points race is a massed start event with up to 40 riders on the track at a time (or the maximum track limit). Riders try to gain the largest number of points over the course of the race. Points are awarded to the top four riders on certain laps, double points are awarded on the final lap. The rider with the farthest distance traveled and the greatest number of points at the end of the race wins: this may not necessarily be the rider that crossed the finish line first. Riders who are ‘lapped’ are permitted to stay in the race. If they are lapped twice, they may be eliminated. This race is amongst the most difficult to judge, as you can imagine.
 

Elimination Race

The elimination is a massed start event where the last rider on every lap is eliminated and must leave the track. This event is also commonly known as the Miss and Out, or Devil takes the Hindmost.
 

Individual Pursuit

Exciting to watch, two racers start at the centre of the straightaway on opposite sides of the track. Each is racing for the best time and using the opposing rider as a gauge for how well they are doing. Typically distances are 2000m, 3000m or 4000m  or 6, 9 and 12 laps respectively on the Westshore Velodrome 333m track.
 


 

Win and Out

The Win and Out, or Danish is a massed start race in which the first rider over the line after the designated distance is eliminated from the race, and placed first. Subsequent bell lap leaders are removed from the track and placed 2nd, 3rd, 4th and so on.
 

Team Pursuit

Two teams of four riders each start from opposite sides of the track. The winning team is decided by the front wheel of the third member’s bike crossing the finish line. If one of the teams is ‘lapped’ during the medal round, the fastest team is declared the winner. If one of the riders on a team cannot finish, the team may continue with three riders. Typically 3000 or 4000 meters (9 or 12 laps).
 

Madison

The Madison is a relay event and one of the most fun to watch. A maximum of twenty teams of two men are on the track, trying to gain a lap on their opponents and score points during sprint laps. There is no official exchange zone and at any one time, only one member of the team is involved in the competition. While one team member races, the other member circles high on the track to rest. When the resting rider rejoins the competition, his teammate slings him into the fray, either by a hand sling or a firm push on the hip.
 

Snowball

Winner of the 1st lap receives 1 point. On lap 2, the first two riders receive points, 2 for 1st and 1 for 2nd) On lap 3, the first three riders receive points, 3, 2, 1. Race length is between 3-10 laps, usually proceeded with neutral lap(s.).

Tempo

Every lap, the first two riders across the line win points, 2 points for 1st and 1 point for 2nd. The rider with the most points wins!

Wheel or Handicap

A wheel or handicap Track Cycling event involves riders being ranked according to ability and ranking, i.e. the lower the ranking/ability of the rider the less they have to complete of the race. For example, in a Handicap race of 2000m, the best riders will start at the 2000m mark, whereas the lower ranked/ability riders will perhaps start at 1750m, 1500m, 1250m depending on the difference in ability at that race.

Omnium

The Omnium is a single competition consisting of six events un with a maximum number of riders as set by the track limit. It is held over two days. In an Omnium, each competitor must race in the  six events, run in the following order (UCI article 3.2.247):

  1. Scratch Race
  2. Individual Pursuit
  3. Elimination Race
  4. Time Trial
  5. Flying Lap
  6. Points Race

The Omnium competitor must complete each of the six events. Points are awarded for placings in each event, with the winning rider of each event is awarded 40 points, second place is awarded 38 points, third place is awarded 36 points on down to the riders ranked 21st place and higher awarded a single point.

The Points race is the last event in the Omnium and the points received in that race are added to the interim total. The overall Omnium winner has accumulated the most points.

A rider abandoning any of the events shall be considered to have abandoned the Omnium competition, and will be ranked with a “DNF” designation on the rankings.

For the Scratch Race, a rider that does not complete that event due to a fall, or due to that fact did not return to the track shall be awarded a single point.

On June 20th, 2014, the UCI amended the rules for the Omnium event, specifically altering its points system, event order and significance of the points race.

 

Regional Competitive Events

For British Columbia and the US Pacific Northwest region, there are several competitive events that take place over the racing season.

Event Velodrome Typical Date
TrackFest 1 Westshore Velodrome June
TrackFest 2 Westshore Velodrome August
BC Track Cycling Championships Westshore Velodrome or Burnaby Velodrome September.
Marymoor Grand Prix Marymoor Velodrome July
Burnaby Four Days Burnaby Velodrome December