Track Races - A User's Guide
Kilometre Time Trial: The Kilo as it is commonly called, is a time trial against the watch, ridden from a standing start over a distance of four laps or 1000m of an international velodrome. No qualifying rounds make this a high-pressure, one-chance event. (500 metres for women)
Team Sprint: Three man teams ride three laps of the track (750m on Olympic standard 250m Tracks). After the first lap, the first rider peels off and plays no further part in the race. After the second lap the second rider also pulls off, leaving the third anchor rider to complete the event and record the team's time. Technically demanding, the aim is for the first two riders to shield and slipstream the third rider for two laps (slipstreaming can save up to 30% of energy) leaving them relatively fresh for the last lap. This event usually involves a team starting on opposite sides of the Velodrome and spectators can watch the exciting event unfold as the teams go past their respective starting points. Starting from a standing start, the Team Sprint is an explosive contest combining strength and speed. The event involves qualifying rounds with the four fastest teams going through to the finals to ride off for gold/silver and bronze medals.
Keirin: The Keirin (Japanese for "fight") is a race in which riders sprint for the line after completing a series of laps behind a single motorbike pacer ( the derny). The pacer gradually builds up speed, with riders jockeying for position behind but riders must not pass the "derny" until it pulls off on to the track infield with 2 and a half laps to go and from then on it's a free-for-all to the line. Tactical and often very physical, it's a great spectator event. Usually ridden with heats, this competition can feature repechages and major (medals) and minor placings finals.
Match Sprint: Simple head-to-head sprinting between two riders over three laps of the track. At the highest level there is usually a qualifying 200m flying start time trial to organise the seeding. From then on there are a series of knockout rounds leading to quarter-finals, semis and the final. These latter rounds are usually ridden on a best of three basis.
Individual Pursuit: The ultimate head-to-head endurance race. Riders begin from a standing start on opposite sides of the Track and literally "pursue" each other for 4000 meters (3000 meters for women). There is usually a qualifying round from which the fastest riders progress either to a second round where the top eight ride off for places in the gold/silver and bronze finals. In the finals, the fastest rider wins, unless one rider is caught by the other, at which point the race is over.
Team Pursuit: This is the Team version of the individual pursuit. The major difference to the individual version is that the four riders share the workload, with the lead rider staying at the front for only a lap or so before swinging up the track and re-joining the four man line at the back. A technical event, team-mates often ride only centimetres apart to maximise slipstreaming effects. As for the Individual Pursuit, teams ride to a lap schedule with the rider's coach or handler often seen calling their progress from the inner of the track. Times are taken on the third rider of the team to cross the line - the slowest rider in a team often sacrifices himself in the latter stages of the event and pulls up the track to let his team-mates complete the race without him.
The picture below is of the NZ Mens Elite Pursuit Team breaking the 4 minute time at the 2009 NZ National Track Champs in March 2009. This is the first time a teams pursuit has gone under the 4 minute mark, their time was 3.59.593.
Points Race: A bunch race (maximum of 24 riders) competing over 20, 30 or 40km. Riders aim to gain points, with the highest score winning the event. Points can be scored at "Intermediate" sprints, which are usually held every 10 or 20 laps. A bonus of 20 points can also be scored by lapping the field. A very tactical event, the Points Race competitors require speed, stamina, plus the ability to sprint quickly to amass points.
Madison: Effectively a Points Race for two-man teams. Only one rider per pairing is ever actually racing - the other rider circles the track high up on the banking waiting to be caught by his team-mate who is ready to be rested. At this point, the second rider swoops down and a hand sling from the first rider, transfers his momentum to him through a slinging motion, propelling the second rider into the race. The original rider then rests until it his turn to be propelled back into the race.
Highly technical, the Madison is an exciting event to watch. Again, the winner is the team with the most points - however, unlike Points Races, laps gained over the field do not produce bonus points - instead laps gained actually have priority over points scored. So if only one team laps the field, they win irrespective of the number of points scored. And if several teams lap the field, they then are ranked according to points scored. This puts extra emphasis on taking laps, which subtly influences tactics used.
Scratch Race: A simple bunch race, usually held over 10, 15, 20 or 25km with the first over the line declared the winner. A scratch race is basically an endurance event with riders using tactics to attempt to break away during the race and gain a lap on the remainder of the field.