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 and increases to 50km/h over three laps, then exits the track with three laps to go, leaving the riders to sprint for the win.



The Sprint is a classic short distance event in which two riders cover three laps of the track. Qualifying phase consists of a flying start 200m time trial to determine the seeding of the 24 riders, fastest versus slowest. From the quarter finals the riders race best of three heats.


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 made up of 4 bunch events raced on the same day: scratch race, tempo race, elimination and points race. 

The final classification is established as follows: the points accumulated by the riders over the first 3 events, on the basis of the points scale in force, are added up. During the 4th and final race, this total may increase or decrease according to the points won or lost by the rider in the specific points race. The winner is the rider who has the highest total of points at the end of the 4th event. 

-Scratch race: a classic first across the line race over 10km for men and 7.5km for women.

-Tempo race: 10 km for Men and 7.5 km for Women in which after the first 5 laps, 1 point is given to the first rider crossing the line on each lap. Besides, riders can also earn 20 points by lapping the field. The winner is the rider with the most points.

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

-Points race: Men cover 25km and women cover 20km. The final placing is determined according to accumulated points won by riders in intermediate sprints or by laps gained on the main field.



The Madison is a team event of two riders. This relay race is contested over 50km for men and 30km for women with intermediate sprints (every 10 laps). While one team member races, the other slows down to take a rest before being thrown back into the action with a hand sling from his/her team mate. The classification is calculated according to the number of points won. As with the points race, any team that gains a lap on the main bunch is awarded 20 points, while any team that is lapped by the bunch has 20 points deducted. Points awarded in the last sprint after the full distance are doubled (10 points, 6 points, 4 points, 2 points).