How to watch Track Cycling

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Source: John Poplett (Flickr Creative Commons)

Everybody who puts on a helmet and cycling clothing whenever they get a chance knows that cycling is a popular and growing sport in the UK. However it has taken several unique events to attract the attention of the media to cycling, which has pushed the profile of the sport sky-high. Over the last few weeks, we’ve had a great combination of media-friendly happenings, with highlights being:

  • The first-ever British winner of the Tour de France, plus a British runner-up – and the approachable ‘everyman’ image of Bradley Wiggins doesn’t hurt either!
  • The Olympic road races and time trials running past a million people through Surrey and being mostly free to watch (and practically compulsory as all the residents were trapped by road closures!)
  • Several high-profile velodrome cyclists including multiple gold-medallist Chris Hoy, camera-friendly Victoria Pendleton and many others up and coming.

Most people are familiar with the road race format, but there are several other cycling events in the Olympics which may be new to you. So if you don’t yet know your keirin from your omnium, read on.

Pursuit racing

is one of the simpler forms of velodrome cycling. The team pursuit is held over a number of laps of the velodrome, with two teams of four starting on opposite sides of the track. The objective is to complete the distance in the fastest time, or to catch and overtake the other team. The riders work closely together, switching places frequently as it is the lead rider that works the hardest. Like all velodrome sports, cycling clothing for this event is super tight and super streamlined, and as it is a short indoor event there is no need for weather proofing, ease of access or to carry anything.

Sprint

is an extremely tactical event – unlike athletic sprinting, it is not a matter of going as fast as possible from the start, but of clever positioning in an attempt to make rivals start the sprint phase first. The banked track of the velodrome adds extra drama. However the Olympic Sprint is really more of a short team pursuit race, with teams changing the lead between riders. This is strictly controlled which is why the British women came to grief this week.

Keirin

is a clever take on sprinting in which the cyclists start behind a pacer, either another cyclist or a motorised vehicle. The pacer starts relatively slowly and then gradually winds up the pace, leaving the track a few hundred metres before the end of the race. At this point the cyclists sprint for victory. Like many unusual sports, Keirin originated in Japan where it is a major gambling and betting event; the word simply means ‘bicycle race’.

The Omnium

event is new for the 2012 games and replaces several previous individual events with one medal opportunity. The Omnium is composed of six individual events (similar to the multi-sport athletics events of decathlon or heptathlon). These include simple flying laps, first-past-the-post races, elimination races, an individual pursuit and a short time trial. The Omnium is very spectator friendly as the events are short, varied and can be held indoors.

Even without the sudden high profile, road racing and cycling are already mass participation sports in the UK, with hundreds of clubs and all the gear and cycling clothing easily available. If you’ve been inspired by Britain’s success, and are looking at taking up with sport yourself, we regularly have cycling clothing sales on site for great brands at incredible prices.  Currently, we have sales for Castelli, Planet X and Science in Sport.

Don’t worry if you couldn’t get tickets. The cycling is getting quite a lot of Olympic TV time, and if you have unlimited internet download you can also watch all the events online whenever suits you. So whether participating or spectating, everyone can feel part of Olympic Cycling.