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Track Cycling - Endurance Events Explained


Track cycling endurance descriptions

Individual pursuit

The individual pursuit sees riders begin on opposite sides of the track from a standing start. If you catch your opponent you win, otherwise whoever completes the specified distance in the fastest time is the winner. Individual pursuit races are generally 4 kilometres long for men and 3 kilometres for women. This event is a test of endurance and for this reason has often been an event that road racers have crossed-over into.

Team Pursuit

The team pursuit is an event which involves teams of 4 riders competing over 4 kilometres for both men and women. Like in the individual pursuit, the two teams start the race on opposite sides of the track and if one team catches and overtakes the other the race is over. If that doesn’t happen the team who gets their first three riders across the line first are the winners. For this reason the other rider often withdraws early from the race. The riders in the team pursuit usually take turns in front to help minimise the work done.

Scratch Race

The scratch race is a classic mass start race with the first across the line being the winner. Men’s scratch races at international level are 15 kilometres while women’s races are 10 kilometres. The races are often tactical with endurance riders attempting breakaways and the sprinters usually staying in the pack awaiting a mass finish.

Points Race

The points race is also a mass start event take usually takes place over a long distance. Within this race there are a number of sprints held every ten laps or so with the first five riders across the line getting points with first across getting 5 points and second getting 4 etc. Riders can attain an extra 20 points if the overlap the main field and also there is a bonus for crossing the line first at the end of the race. The competitor with the most points at the end of the race wins. There are a number of variations of the points race including: the snowball, the point-a-lap race and the tempo race.


Named after Madison Square Garden in New York, the Madison is essentially a team points race where two riders compete over 50 kilometres. After a mass start, only one rider is allowed to race at any one time and for the riders to change over they must make contact with each other. This is done by performing a hand-sling in which one rider propels his teammate. They are usually points given out every 20 laps and if a team laps the field they automatically take the lead. Otherwise the team with the most points wins.


The Omnium is a multiple discipline event similar to an event like decathlon in Athletics. The Omnium has had a number of different formats throughout its history but in its current iteration it consists of a scratch race, elimination race, points race, and the new tempo race. This version of the omnium takes place over just one day unlike the previous version which took place over two and also included a sprint time trial, flying lap and individual pursuit race. The rider with most points at the end of the 4 events wins with the places in the last event, the points race being used as a tiebreaker.

Elimination race

Elimination races involve competitors being knocked out throughout the race by a certain set of criteria. The most common type of elimination race is the “miss and out” variation which sees the rider in last place being eliminated every lap or second lap until one rider is left. This is the type of elimination race that features in the omnium. Another type of elimination race is the “win and out” variation in which the first rider across the line is removed and is the winner, whilst the second rider removed finishes second and so on.

Handicap race

Handicap racing is exactly what you would expect it to be with riders being handicapped according to their ability. For example beginner riders would get significant head start of maybe 20 or 30 minutes ahead of seasoned veterans. The first rider across the line wins with there also sometimes being prizes for the rider with the fastest time,.

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