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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 April, 2004, 11:37 GMT 12:37 UK
Beginner's guide to track cycling
The individual pursuit is one of eight track disciplines
Individual pursuit: only time counts
The Athens velodrome will host all the various track cycling events.

In total there are eight different events for men and women contested on a banked oval course.

Time trial

In a pure test of stamina and speed, cyclists go one at a time and the one with the fastest time wins gold.

The men compete over four laps (one kilometre), while the women race over two (500 metres).


A three-lap race in both the men's and women's events, though only the last 200m is timed.

Two cyclists race head-to-head, playing a waiting game, with the first to cross the finish line the winner.

Riders must keep moving on the first lap at no slower than walking pace, but after that anything goes.

A series of heats determines the top two riders, who then compete for the gold.

Individual pursuit

Two riders start on opposite sides of the track and attempt to catch each other or, if not, clock the fastest time. The race is over 4km for the men and 3km for the women.

The early rounds are made up of heats in which only the rider's time counts. The best four go through to the semi-finals, and the winners race off for gold.

Team pursuit

This is a four-rider version of the 4km individual pursuit and is for the men only.

Teams save energy by riding wheel-to-wheel, and riders take turns to lead while the others follow in their slipstream.

The third rider is the pivotal team member because in order to win by catching the opposition, the third rider must draw level with his opposite number.

If no one is caught then the times of both the third riders are compared and the fastest wins.

Points race

The aim is to gain the most points over the course of one race - 40km for men and 25km for women.

It begins with a mass start after one lap has been completed and riders then fight for the point-scoring positions.

The first four riders who cross the finishing line every 10th lap score points - five for first, three for second, two for third and one for fourth. In the final sprint to the line, points count double.

When the race is over, the winner is the one who has lapped the field, meaning they have caught up with the last rider in the race.

If more than one rider laps the field, a common occurrence, then the winner is the one with the most points.


This men-only race bears a similarity to the points race, and was first contested at Madison Square Gardens in New York.

It begins with a mass start and is a sort of relay involving two riders per team, who try to accumulate points by winning sprints throughout the race.

They change over by gripping hands, with the rider being relieved propelling his partner into the race. While not racing the partner circles the top of the track slowly waiting to re-enter.

The race is over 240 laps, with a sprint every 20 laps, and points are allocated in the same way as for the points race.


This men's race made its Olympic debut in Sydney, but has been contested in Japan for more than 20 years.

It takes place over 2,000m, with competitors riding behind a motorbike for the first 1400m.

It gradually increases its speed from 25km/h to 45km/h before leaving the track, and the race is then a sprint for the finish.

Olympic sprint

Another men's race to make its debut in Sydney, the Olympic sprint involves two teams of three.

The teams start on opposite sides of the track and sprint at blistering speeds for three laps, with each team member leading his team for one lap.

The first rider is usually a sprinter, the second a long-distance sprinter and the third a 1km rider. The team finishes when the third rider crosses the line and the fastest time wins.

The eight fastest times make the quarter-finals and then the race competition becomes a straight knockout to decide the medals.

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