Track racing dates back to the end of the nineteenth century. The first World Championships were held in 1895.
Track racing falls into two categories: short sprint events and longer endurance events.
The Keirin is based on the famous Keirin cycle racing which is one of the biggest betting sports in Japan. Contested over eight laps, the field of three to seven riders follows the Derny motor bike at an increasing pace until two and a half laps to go. The riders jostle for position behind the motorbike to gain the desired position, depending on where their biggest rivals are.
As the motor bike pulls off the track with two and a half laps to go, the battle begins to win the sprint. The stronger riders will launch their effort early whilst others will follow well into the last lap hoping that they are behind the right wheel allowing them to propel themselves to the line and victory at the last possible moment. The riders will be flat out at speeds around 70 km/h.
Kilometre & 500m time trials
These can be easily described as time trials for sprinters. Contested over a kilometre for men and 500 metres for women, the riders start from a special gate and take to the track one at a time to cover the distance as swiftly as possible.
After an all out effort to get the speed high and gain momentum, the skilful riders will measure their efforts so that they do not “die” in the last lap of the lung bursting effort.
This classic track event involves a great deal of movement and tactics. The two or three riders in each race seek to out -manoeuvre their opponents over the three lap race. Watch the leader slow the race to walking pace on the first lap so that the riders behind him/her do not have an advantage. Sometimes the riders will stand still on the track as the leading rider tries to force his/her rival to take over the lead so he can gain a slipstream advantage when riders finally go flat out.
After the slow preliminaries the pace picks up, the rider following has the benefit off surprise if he/she can time his/her acceleration from 35 km/h to 70 km/h to gain a few lengths on the opponent. The times for the sprint are given over the last 200 metres which the best sprinters will cover in just over 10 seconds.
From the quarter final stage all matches are on a ‘best of three’ heats basis.
This is the most hectic discipline where teams of three riders start on each side of the track. As each leading rider completes one lap of the track he drops out leaving the next rider to complete a further lap before the last riders takes over to complete the three lap race. The first round is staged on a time trial basis to find the fastest four teams to contest the final.
The women’s team sprint event is a recent addition to the Championships. The rules are the same as the men’s race except that teams of two riders complete two laps of the 250m track.
The men’s event is held over four kilometres whilst the women compete over three kilometres. The first round will be held on a time trial basis with the best four riders progressing to the finals. In the final stages, two riders start on opposite sides of the track and ride against each other until one rider catches the other or the distance is completed. The finals feature a ride-off for the bronze medal / fourth place followed by the nail biting final race for the gold and silver medals.
This race is contested by teams of two riders showing bike handling skills at their best. One rider has to be in the race at all times. The other team member takes a short rest circling at the top of the track before he rejoins the race with his team mate throwing him into the action with a hand sling. As with the points race there are sprints, in this case every 20 laps and the teams will also be trying to gain a lap on their opponents in this high speed race. The final is over the distance of 50km.
The skills of the riders are vitally important as the bunch reach speeds well over 50 km/h with riders throwing their partners into the fray at key times of the race aiming to win the sprint points or gain a decisive lap on their competitors.
The points race is contested over a distance of 25km for women and 40km for men superbly demonstrating the glittering spectacle and tactics of track racing.
With sprints every ten laps, the pace of the race varies as each sprint approaches. The complete points race rider must have the flexibility to adapt to the increases in speed and changes of tactic as the race develops. With 5, 3, 2 and 1 point/s awarded to the first four riders in each sprint, the last two laps before each sprint are highly animated as each rider tries to find the best position to make his effort.
Despite the points amassed in the sprints, a rider can win 20 points if he manages to lap the field. Riders will attack individually or in small groups to try to gain the decisive lap. Watch the main field battle to resist a small group gaining a lap. The final result will be decided by total points gained.
This is the simplest race in the championships. It’s a bunched race event over a distance of 10km for women and 15km for men and the first across the finish line wins the gold medal. The action is non stop with riders trying to break away from the main field and their adversaries organising the chase behind. There’s no room for hesitation in this high speed cat and mouse race.
For men, this event is contested by teams of four riders each pursuing the other over 4000 metres. Watch the precision of the four riders as the rider in front leads for a half lap before winging up the banking to resume his contribution to the effort at the rear of the string whilst his colleagues maintain the high pace. The skilful teams will be following each other only millimetres apart to ensure they maximise the slipstream shelter for the riders following the leader before making their own effort.
The women’s event is for three riders over 3000 metres.
The men’s Omnium is the pentathlon of track cycling. Each competitor must ride in five events – 200m flying time trial; 7.5km scratch race; 3km individual pursuit; 15km points race and 1km time trial. In this competition, points are awarded in reverse order. The winning rider of each event gets one point and the rider with the lowest number of points overall is the winner. If there is a tie on points, the judges look back at the timed events to determine who wins. You’ve got to be good at sprinting, time-trialing and bunched racing in this tough race series.
The women’s Omnium is a new event to the World Championships using the same rules as the men’s Omnium with different distances except for the 200m flying time trial – a 5km scratch race; a 2km individual pursuit; a 10km points race and a 500m time trial.