Track cycling at the Olympics

A short history

Track Cycling has been around since at least 1870. When cycling was in its infancy, wooden indoor tracks were built, resembling the velodromes of today. With the exception of 1912, the discipline has been featured at every Olympic Games since the first modern Games.

Competition format


The Olympic track cycling programme features five events.

Team sprint

In the men’s competition, teams of three race over three laps, whereas for women, teams of two race over two laps. Each rider in the team must lead for one lap of the race. In the case of a tie (to the closest one-thousandth of a second), the team with the fastest time over the last lap will be declared the winner.


Riders in the Keirin start in a bunch behind a motorized device in order to progressively reach a specific speed. The pacemaker starts at 30km/h for men and 25km/h for women, increases to 50km/h for men and 45 km/h for women, then exits the track with two and a half (2½) laps to go, leaving the riders to sprint for the win.


After a time-trial qualifying phase to determine the 18 fastest and their seeding order, riders come race head to head from the 1/16 finals. From the quarter-finals, two-up matches will be held over two races (with a third deciding race, if necessary).

Team Pursuit

Competing teams of four riders start on opposite sides of the velodrome and race over 4,000m. The winning team is the one that records the fastest time or in the finals, catches its opponents.


The Omnium is disputed over two consecutive days and is made up of the following six events:


The final classification is established as follows: the points accumulated by the riders over the first 5 events, on the basis of the points scale in force, are added up. During the 6th and final race, this total may increase or decrease according to the points won or lost by the rider. The winner is the rider who has the highest total of points at the end of the 6th event.



Scratch race: a bunch race over 15km for men and 10km for women.


Individual pursuit: the race distance is 4,000m for men and 3,000m for women.


Elimination race: a bunch race during which the last rider crossing the line at each intermediate sprint (every 2 laps) is eliminated.


Time trial: the race distance is 1km for men and 500m for women.


Flying lap: a race against the clock with a flying start.


Points race: Men cover 40km and women cover 25km. The final placing is determined according to accumulated points won by riders in intermediate sprints and by laps gained on the main field.