Track cycling

Track cycling is a bicycle racing sport usually held on specially built banked tracks or velodromes (but many events are held at older velodromes where the track banking is relatively shallow) using track bicycles.

Track cycling
Track Cycling - Cali 2015
A track cycling race at the third round of 2014–15 UCI Track Cycling World Cup in the Velódromo Alcides Nieto Patiño in Cali, Colombia
Highest governing bodyUCI
ContactNo, although bodies do touch
Team membersIndividuals and teams
Mixed genderYes, separate competitions
TypeCycle sport
EquipmentTrack bicycle
Country or regionWorldwide
OlympicYes, men's since 1896 and women's since 1984
ParalympicYes, men's and women's since the 1996


An outdoor track race in Paris in 1908 featuring Major Taylor, the first African-American cyclist to become world champion

Track cycling has been around since at least 1870. When cycling was in its infancy, wooden indoor tracks were laid which resemble those of modern velodromes.[1] These velodromes consisted of two straights and slightly banked turns.

One appeal of indoor track racing was that spectators could be easily controlled, and hence an entrance fee could be charged, making track racing a lucrative sport. Early track races attracted crowds of up to 2000 people. Indoor tracks also enabled year-round cycling for the first time. The main early centers for track racing in Britain were Birmingham, Sheffield, Liverpool, Manchester and London.

The most noticeable changes in over a century of track cycling have concerned the bikes themselves, engineered to be lighter and more aerodynamic to enable ever-faster times.

With the exception of the 1912 Olympics, track cycling has been featured in every modern Olympic Games. Women's track cycling was first included in the modern Olympics in 1988. The sport was moved indoors since 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.[2]

Along the decades, track lengths have been gradually reduced. Early velodromes varied in length between 130 and 500 metres long. By the 1960s, a standard length of 333.33 metres length were commonly used for international competitions. Since 1990, international velodromes usually have a length of 250 metres.

Main centres

Indoor cycling at the Sportpaleis Alkmaar, Netherlands

Track cycling is particularly popular in Europe, notably Belgium, France, Germany and the United Kingdom where it is often used as off-season training by road racers (professional six-day events were often entered by two-man teams comprising a leading road racer and a track specialist). The sport also has significant followings in Japan and Australia.

In the United States, track racing reached a peak of popularity in the 1930s when six-day races were held in Madison Square Garden in New York. The word "Madison" is still used as the name for this type of race in six-day racing. A group of US velodromes formed the American Track Racing Association (ATRA) and its membership now includes more than half of all velodromes in the US.

Race formats

Track cycling events fit into two broad categories: sprint races and endurance races. Riders will typically fall into one category and not compete in the other. Riders with good all round ability in the junior ranks will decide to focus on one area or another before moving up to the senior ranks.


Sprint races are generally between 8 and 10 laps in length and focus on raw sprinting power and race tactics over a small number of laps to defeat opponents. Sprint riders will train specifically to compete in races of this length and will not compete in longer endurance races.

The main sprint events are:


Endurance races are held over much longer distances. While these primarily test the riders endurance abilities, the ability to sprint effectively is also required in the Madison, points race and scratch race. The length of these races varies from 12–16 laps for the individual and team pursuit races, up to 120 laps for a full length Madison race in World Championships or Olympic Games.

The main endurance events are:

Major competitive events

Olympic Games

Held every four years as part of the Summer Olympics. There are currently 10 events in the Olympics, fewer than appear in the World Championships. At the 2008 Summer Olympics, seven of these events were for men while only three were for women. For the 2012 Summer Olympics, there were five events for both men and women. For the 2016 Summer Olympics the events remained the same.

World Championships

Manchester Velodrome 2011
The Manchester Velodrome, a banked Siberian Pine-surfaced track, which has hosted the UCI World Championships on three occasions and home to British Cycling.

The UCI Track Cycling World Championships are held every year, usually in March or April at the end of the winter track season. There are currently 20 events in the World Championships, 10 for men and 10 for women. Qualification places are determined by different countries performance during the World Cup Classic series held through the season.

World Cup

The UCI Track Cycling World Cup series consists of four or five meetings, held in different countries throughout the world during the winter track cycling season. These meeting include 17 of the 19 events (excluding the omnium for men and women) that take place in a World Championship over three days.

Events won and points scored by the riders throughout this series count towards qualification places individually and for their nation in the World Championships at the end of the season. The overall leader in each event wears the white points leaders jersey at each race, with the overall winner at the end of the season keeping the jersey and wearing it at the World Championships. Riders compete for either national teams or trade teams.

As World Championship qualification is at stake, the events attract a top field of riders. However, it is common for top riders not to compete at all the events of the series, with teams often using the events to field younger riders or attempt different line-ups at some events. Top riders can still win the series, or obtain good a placing for qualification points for their country, without competing at every event.


The UCI Track Cycling World Ranking is based upon the results in all women's UCI-sanctioned races over a twelve-month period. The ranking includes an individual and a nations ranking and includes the disciplines: individual pursuit, points race, scratch, sprint, time trial, keirin, omnium (since 2010-11), team pursuit, team sprint and madison (men only).

National series

Several countries run a series of national level events held as part of series throughout each of those countries and sometimes across country borders. Examples of these are the Revolution track series held in both the UK and Australia, and the ATRA NCS series in the United States.

Riding position

Jamie Staff - Kilo Time Trial
Jamie Staff riding a 1 km time trial

Aerodynamic drag is a significant factor in both road and track racing. Frames are often constructed of moulded carbon fiber, for a lightweight design. More recently, track (and road) bikes have employed airfoil designs on the tubes of the frame to reduce aerodynamic drag.

On a dedicated track bicycle there are few components, with no need for brakes or derailleurs (and therefore shifters). In fact the only moving part on a bicycle is the drivetrain, which includes the cranks, pedals, the single chainring, one cog fixed to the hub without a freewheel mechanism and the chain itself. Because of this the need for aerodynamic components is minimised, and the aerodynamics to weight ratio makes aerodynamic componentry, at present, an idea with more cons than pros.

Given the importance of aerodynamics, the riders' sitting position becomes extremely important. The riding position is similar to the road racing position, but is ultimately dependent on the frame geometry of the bicycle and the handlebars used. Handlebars on track bikes used for longer events such as the points race are similar to the drop bars found on road bicycles. However, in the sprint event the rider's position is more extreme compared with a road rider. The bars are lower and the saddle is higher and more forward. Bars are often narrower with a deeper drop. Steel bars, as opposed to lighter alloys or carbon fibre, are still used by many sprinters for their higher rigidity and durability.

In timed events such as the pursuit and the time trial, riders often use aerobars or 'triathlon bars' similar to those found on road time trial bicycles, allowing the rider to position the arms closer together in front of the body. This results in a more horizontal back and presents the minimum frontal area to reduce drag. Aerobars can be separate bars that are attached to time trial or bull horn bars, or they can be part of a one-piece monocoque design. Use of aerobars is permitted only in pursuit and time trial events.

Formats of track cycle races are also heavily influenced by aerodynamics. If one rider closely follows, they draft or slipstream another, because the leading rider pushes air around themselves; any rider closely following has to push out less air than the lead rider and thus can travel at the same speed while expending less effort. This fact has led to a variety of racing styles that allow skilled riders or teams to exploit this tactical advantage, as well as formats that simply test strength, speed and endurance.

During the early 1990s in individual pursuit events, some riders, most notably Graeme Obree, adopted a straight-armed Superman-like position with their arms fully extended horizontally, but this position was subsequently outlawed by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the sport's ruling body. Recumbent bicycles can actually be ridden faster due to their aerodynamic advantage, but are similarly banned from UCI competition.

Track records

In addition to regular track racing, tracks are also the venue for many speed records. These are over either a fixed distance or for a fixed period of time. The most famous of these is the hour record, which involves simply riding as far as possible in one hour.

The history of the hour record is replete with exploits by some of the greatest names in cycling from both road and track racing (including, among others, Major Taylor, Henri Desgrange, Fausto Coppi, Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Francesco Moser, Miguel Indurain and Tony Rominger). Originally, attempts were made at velodromes with reputations for being fast (such as the Velodromo Vigorelli in Milan).

More recently, attempts have moved to high-altitude locations, such as Mexico City, where the thinner air results in lower aerodynamic drag, which more than offsets the added difficulty of breathing. Innovations in equipment and the rider's position on the bike have also led to dramatic improvements in the hour record, but have also been a source of controversy (see Graeme Obree).

See also


  1. ^ "Cycling Track Equipment and History - Olympic Sport History". International Olympic Committee. 2018-05-15. Retrieved 2019-01-19.
  2. ^ "Cycling Track Equipment and History - Olympic Sport History". International Olympic Committee. 2018-05-15. Retrieved 2019-01-19.

External links

2010 UCI Track Cycling World Championships

The 2010 UCI Track Cycling World Championships were the World Championships for track cycling in 2010. They took place at the Ballerup Super Arena in Ballerup, Denmark from 24 to 28 March 2010.

2011 UCI Track Cycling World Championships

The 2011 UCI Track Cycling World Championships was the World Championships for track cycling in 2011. The championships took place at the Omnisport Apeldoorn in Apeldoorn, Netherlands from 23 to 27 March 2011. In January 2012 it was announced that Grégory Baugé's results in the Sprint and Team Sprint competitions would be nullified.The championships were dominated by the rivalry between Australia and Great Britain, who shared 10 of the 19 gold medals available between them, including in eight of the ten Olympic events.

2013 UCI Track Cycling World Championships

The 2013 UCI Track Cycling World Championships took place in Minsk, Belarus from 20 to 24 February 2013 in the Minsk-Arena. The Championships featured 19 events, the same as 2012.

Great Britain, with five gold medals (four in Olympic events), and nine in total topped the medal table. Australia, Germany, France, the United States and Ireland all enjoyed a successful championships.

Becky James of Great Britain, debuting at this level, won four medals, including two gold, in a single Championships, the first British cyclist to do so. Sarah Hammer of the United States also won two gold medals from two events, as did Stefan Bötticher of Germany and Michael Hepburn of Australia.

Martyn Irvine of Ireland broke a 116-year wait for a male Irish track medal with silver in the individual pursuit, only to return an hour later to take Ireland's first ever track gold medal in the Scratch race. Laura Trott suffered her first major senior track defeat, taking silver in the Omnium behind Hammer, but she retained for a third time her Team Pursuit title with Dani King and debutant and World Junior Road Time Trial champion Elinor Barker.

2015 UCI Track Cycling World Championships

The 2015 UCI Track Cycling World Championships were the World Championships for track cycling in 2015. They took place in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (part of the Paris Metropolitan Area) at the Vélodrome de Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines from 18–22 February 2015.

2016 UCI Track Cycling World Championships

The 2016 UCI Track Cycling World Championships were the World Championships for track cycling in 2016. They took place in London in the Lee Valley VeloPark from 2–6 March 2016.As the last major track cycling event prior to the 2016 Summer Olympics, the championships were particularly important for cyclists and national teams aiming to qualify for the track cycling competitions at Rio 2016. Hosts Great Britain finished top of the medals table with five gold, one silver and three bronze medals.

2017 UCI Track Cycling World Championships

The 2017 UCI Track Cycling World Championships were the World Championships for track cycling in 2017. They took place in Hong Kong in the Hong Kong Velodrome from 12 to 16 April 2017. The last time the championships took place in Asia was at the 1990 UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Japan at the Green Dome Maebashi.

2018 UCI Track Cycling World Championships

The 2018 UCI Track Cycling World Championships were the World Championships for track cycling in 2018. They took place in the Netherlands at the Omnisport Apeldoorn from 28 February to 4 March 2018.

2019 UCI Track Cycling World Championships

The 2019 UCI Track Cycling World Championships were held in Pruszków, Poland from 27 February to 3 March 2019.

Cycling at the 1988 Summer Olympics

The cycling competitions at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul consisted of two different categories: road cycling and track cycling. Nine events were contested, including the first women's sprint event at the Olympics.

Cycling at the 2012 Summer Paralympics

Cycling at the 2012 Summer Paralympics consisted of 50 events in two main disciplines, track cycling and road cycling. Track cycling was held in London Velopark from 30 August to 2 September, and road cycling took place at Brands Hatch from September 5 to September 8.

Cycling at the Summer Olympics

Cycling has been contested at every Summer Olympic Games since the birth of the modern Olympic movement at the 1896 Summer Olympics, at which a road race and five track events were held. Mountain bike racing entered the Olympic programme at the Atlanta Olympics, followed by BMX racing in 2008. Prior to the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics, all events were speed races, but the 2020 programme will feature BMX freestyle for the first time.

Women's cycling did not enter the Olympic programme until the road race at the 1984 Summer Olympics. Women have competed in track events as well since 1988.

The 2012 Summer Olympics were the first at which men and women competed in the same number of events in all cycling disciplines including track cycling, which previously had more men's and fewer women's events than the 2012 programme. However, women have shorter distances for some events.

Individual pursuit

The individual pursuit is a track cycling event where two cyclists begin the race from a stationary position on opposite sides of the track.

The event is held over 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) for men and 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) for women. The two riders start at the same time and set off to complete the race distance in the fastest time. They will ride on the pursuit line at the bottom of the track in order to find the fastest line. This race makes for a good spectacle as the two riders pursue each other attempting to catch the other rider who started on the other side of the track. If the catch is achieved, then the successful pursuer is declared the winner. However, they can continue to ride the rest of the race distance in order to set the fastest time in a qualifying race or a record in a final.

List of Dutch Olympic cyclists

This is a list of all Dutch cyclists who competed at the Summer Olympics. As of 2012 events in four cycling disciplines (BMX, mountain biking, road cycling and track cycling) have been competed at the Summer Olympics. Dutch cyclist did not competed at the 1896, 1900 Summer Olympics, 1904 Summer Olympics and 1912 Summer Olympics and boycotted the 1956 Summer Olympics.

Sprint (track cycling)

The sprint or match sprint is a track cycling event involving between two and four riders, though it is usually run as a one-on-one match race between opponents who, unlike in the individual pursuit, start next to each other. Men's sprint has been an Olympic event at every games except 1904 (which had races at seven different distances) and 1912 (which had no track cycling events). Women's sprints have been contested at every Olympics since 1988.

Team pursuit

The team pursuit is a track cycling event similar to the individual pursuit, except that two teams, each of up to four riders, compete, starting on opposite sides of the velodrome.

UCI Track Cycling World Championships

The UCI Track Cycling World Championships are the set of world championship events for the various disciplines and distances in track cycling. They are regulated by the Union Cycliste Internationale. Before 1900, they were administered by the UCI's predecessor, the International Cycling Association (ICA).

Current events include: time trial, keirin, individual pursuit, team pursuit, points race, scratch race, sprint, team sprint, omnium and madison. Women's events are generally shorter than men's. Events which are no longer held include the motor paced events and tandem events.

UCI Track Cycling World Championships – Men's sprint

The UCI Track Cycling World Championships – Men's sprint is the world championship sprint event held annually at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships. Between its inception and 1992, the sprint was separated into two events; one for professionals and one for amateurs. From 1993, all competitors competed in one open event. It was first held at the 1895 championships, two years after the first amateur sprint world championship. As of 2011, Koichi Nakano from Japan has won the most titles with ten consecutive professional wins between 1977 and 1986.

UCI Track Cycling World Cup

The UCI Track Cycling World Cup (formerly known as the UCI Track Cycling World Cup Classics) is a multi race tournament held over a track cycling season - usually between October and February. Each series is divided into several rounds, each held in a different country.

UEC European Track Championships

The European Track Cycling Championships are a set of elite level competition events held annually for the various disciplines and distances in track cycling, exclusively for European cyclists, and regulated by the European Cycling Union (UEC). They were first held in their current format in 2010, when elite level cyclists competed for the first time following an overhaul of European track cycling.

The UEC agreed with the governing bodies of six other major European sports from 2018 to integrate its four Olympic-class events, including track cycling, into the new European Championships event on a quadrennial basis. Beginning with 2018, every fourth edition of the competition will form part of the multi-sport event.

While track cycling will also form part of the 2019 European Games in Minsk, these events will not be European Championships, and the UEC event will also be held later in the same year.

In line with cycling tradition, winners of an event at the championships are presented with, in addition to the gold medal, a special, identifiable jersey. This UEC European Champion jersey is a blue jersey with gold European stars.

Track cycling
Other annual events
See also
Records in track cycling
Area records
National records
and Games records
Core program
2020 addition
Bicycle racing
Animal racing
Motor racing
Multi-sport racing


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