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Track Cycling Sprints Disciplines Explained


Sprint event summaries


Often as much about strategy as speed, the traditional sprint in cycling involves the two riders starting side by side and is usually a one on one race over a short number of laps. The first few laps of the race are generally very tactical and for this reason is sometimes described as a game of cat and mouse. The last lap being is when the racing truly begins as both riders give it their all to cross the line first.

Team sprint

The team sprint (formerly known as the Olympic sprint) usually involves three riders per team in the men’s event and two riders per team in women’s variation. Both teams start on each side of the track at the same time and after each lap one rider from each team drops off. Eventually in the final lap only one rider per team remains to race to the finish. As the event is intense from the start and is over three (for men) or two (for women) laps, it tests competitors’ endurance as well as their sprinting ability.


Originally from Japan, the keirin is a type of individual sprint event which usually involves 6 to 8 participants and takes place over around eight laps. However for the first few laps of the race the riders are led out by a motorised bike called a derny which sets the pace. The pace of the derny gradually picks up as the racers manoeuvre for the best position before the final laps in which derny withdraws leaving the riders to dash for the line. With so many riders involved, the keirin is one of the most exciting forms of sprint racing.

Track time trial

The track time trial pits riders solely against the clock as the cyclists race individually over a set distance from a static start with the fastest naturally being the victors. The men’s time trail is generally over 1000 metres whilst the women’s is over 500 metres. The 200 metre “flying lap”, in which riders have a moving start as opposed to standing start, is a time trail event that is a part of the omnium and it is also used in qualifying for individual sprint events.

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