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Guide to track cycling

Track cycling's sprint events


For this event riders need both explosive speed and brilliant bike-handling skills.

Lots are drawn for each race and the rider who draws the inside of the track at the start must lead for the first lap.

This usually takes place at walking pace - which can be a bit baffling for the new spectator - because riders neither want to take the lead nor leave themselves open to attack from behind.

Sometimes this tactic causes both riders to come to a standstill with the riders balancing on their cycles and waiting for the other to crack.

So despite being called a sprint it is not simply about getting from A to B in the fastest time.

It is about having the tactical skill and courage to make your opponent do what you want them to do.

In the last lap one rider will normally burst away from his opponent to set up a dramatic sprint finish.


This is a thrilling three-man time trial held over three laps of the velodrome.

It has become very popular with spectators since it was introduced into championship racing in 1996.

The event requires the speed of a sprinter, the strength of a kilometre rider and the ability to power away from the start while keeping a perfect team formation.

Two teams race against each other, starting on opposite sides of the track.

At the end of the first lap the leading rider in each team pulls up the banking leaving the second rider to lead for the next lap.

At the end of the second lap the second rider pulls off up the banking to leave the third rider on his own for the last lap.

Rider number three must have the best endurance to last for all three laps and still have strong legs for the finish.

A good kilometre time trial rider is usually chosen for this crucial position.


The keirin is a bizarre event, which originated in Japan.

It is a popular sport there, and attracts major betting from punters.

It is similar to the individual sprint but features six to eight riders on the track instead of two.

This is the bizarre bit: the riders follow behind a small moped-type bike called a derny.

This derny paces the riders for the first few laps of the eight-lap race.

It steadily increases speed before pulling off into the centre of the arena with two-and-a-half laps to go, leaving the riders to sprint to the finish.

During the lead-up laps to the finishing sprint, the riders jostle with each other for the best position.

But they have to stay behind the back wheel of the derny.

With so many riders taking part in what is really a sprint race, there are often crashes on the final laps.


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