Track racing has been around since the last century. The first world championships records date back to 1895.These days, it is a highly structured and complex branch of cycle sport and involves several different races. A track meeting showcases a range of the most dynamic and extreme skills and tactics in cycle sport.
The exponents of track racing are cycling's most muscular athletes.
These are the power players, whose image is the embodiment of strength and speed.
Recently the track world championships programme was brought into line with the track Olympics programme, making the two annual events identical to the quadrennial event.
Sports Within a Sport
Track racing is divided into two broad categories: the sprint races and the endurance races.
Sprint Races Endurance Races
The Track Races Explained
Time Trial 1000metres
A simple surge for the line. For male racers only, the start is from standing and the rider accelerates as quickly as possible to maximum speed, then holds it until the line if possible. The best times for the measured kilometre touch one minute.
Tactics do not come into this event, it is purely a test of power and accurate pedalling.
A simple surge for the line. For female racers only, the start is from standing and the rider attempts to accelerate to maximum speed before the finish line. The best times for the Tactics do not come into this event, it is purely a test of power and accurate pedalling. The 500m time trial will be introduced at the world championships this year.
200m Sprint- also known as 'Match Sprint'
This was first a world championship race at Cologne in 1895. Nowadays, there is a Sprint category both men and women. A line is marked 200 metres before the finish, and the riders' times beyond this line are measured. This is why the race is sometimes called the 200m Sprint. Races are contested over a distance of one kilometre, with two riders at a time on the track, jockeying for the best position from which to unleash their final surge at the finish line. The contest uses a knock-out format, and each heat is contested over two races, and if needed a third race is used as a tie-breaker.
Tactics plays a key role in the match sprint, and sometimes the cat and mouse game in the early part of the race brings both riders to a complete standstill, which is how the famous cycling 'track stand' came about. The reason for this is that nobody really wants to lead. It is generally a disadvantage to have the lead going into the final 200 metres, since the high speeds attained by track racers make the slipstream advantage a significant factor. The match sprint is always one of the most popular types of race at a track meeting.
Only men compete in the Keirin. This race originated in Japan, where it is the predominant form of cycle racing. People there go to Keirin meetings and bet on the outcome, similarly to horse or dog racing . There is so much money in the sport in Japan that many of their top Keirin riders do not go to the world championships. And if they did, they might well not win it. Since this race first appeared on the world championships programme in 1980, the only time a Japanese rider has won it was in 1987, when Harumi Honda took the Rainbow Jersey at Vienna. So why do the Japanese not dominate in the race they invented?
The Japanese Keirin has some significant differences to the international interpretation of this race. For a start, tracks there are banked less steeply than in most other places, and an all-weather asphalt surface permits Keirin racing in the rain, which would not happen at a world championship or world cup meeting. Furthermore, the approach of Japanese Keirin racers is to win as much money as they can all the time. This means staying at a high level of fitness for several months of the year. To reach the peak needed for success at the world championship would demand a recovery period afterwards, which would harm earning potential. So from the professional point of view, it makes no sense. One final significant difference is that in the Japanese Keirin, riders start the race lined out across the track. In the international version, they start in a single file along the track.
So, what happens in the Keirin? Rather a lot, actually. It is regarded as the most physically combative of all track races. A motorcycle paces the field of eight, 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.
- Individual Pursuit : 4000m for men
- Individual Pursuit : 3000m for women
Only two riders contest the pursuit, each starts at a point marked half way along the opposing straights of the track. From the start gun to the finish, the purpose of the race is to catch the other rider. If a rider catches his or her rival before the designated race distance, the race ends immediately. Otherwise the pursuit is decided by the rider who completes the distance in the shorter time. The winner passes through progressive rounds in a knock-out format contest.
Tactics in pursuit racing revolve around pacing. To start fast, or to finish fast? The best riders keep an even pace throughout. Smooth pedalling style and intense concentration are as important in this sport as the capacity to endure pain. The best times for the men's four kilometre pursuit are beneath four minutes, thirty seconds. Among the women, any time beneath three minutes, forty seconds for the three kilometres is very good.
This event is for men only. It is similar to the individual pursuit, except that teams of four contest this race. Both teams hold a tight formation, the riders keeping within centimetres of each other while taking turns at the front. The time of the third rider is counted each lap until the finish. This means that before the closing laps, one rider can take the burden of the work, and then drop off as fatigue bites approaching the finish. Olympic Sprint
The Olympic sprint is a men's race at this point in history. It was invented to conform with Olympic criteria for cycling, and creates a spectacular event that is popular with television and spectators alike.
A three lap race, two teams of three riders start from the pursuit markings. Each rider in each team leads for one lap and then takes shelter in the slipstream at the back of his team line. The finish time is recorded when the third rider in each team crosses the line.
The first leading rider in each team must be a pure sprinter: able to reach a high speed quickly but not necessarily to maintain it. The rider who takes the lead for the final lap might be good at the kilometre sprint.
At the finish of this fast and close-fought race, frequently the gap between teams is measured in tenths or hundredths of a second.
- Points Race : 40km for men
- Points Race : 24km for women
The longest of the track races. A bunch of riders sprints for points at the end of each lap. At the end of the race, the rider with the greatest points total is the winner.
Not an easy race to follow, but worth the effort of concentration if you do. This race takes its name from the venue of its invention: Madison Square Gardens in New York.
Several teams of two men race around the track at the same time, trying to gain a lap on their rivals. The Madison is either thirty minutes or one hour in length, and is effectively a relay race. At any one time only one member of the team is involved in the competition. While one team member races, the other circles high on the track, resting. Normally the rest period takes one and a half laps. When the resting rider rejoins the competition, his colleague slings him into the fray, either by a hand sling, or else by a firm push on the seat.
The object of the Madison is to complete more laps than any other team. Points are scored at specified marks during the race, and if two or more teams finish the race on the same lap, as is often the case, the one with the greatest points total wins.