Track Cycling

Track cycling is all about speed, stamina, technique, tactics and nerve! Track cycling takes place on the Pilditch track in Pretoria West, it is 250m long concrete track and has a banking of 49%. The lowest black line defines the length of the track, 90cm above that is the red sprinter’s line; the gap between black and red marks the optimum route around the track. At a minimum of 250cm, or halfway up the track, there is a blue line called the stayer’s line; used in stayer races (races behind pacemaker-motorbikes) as a separation line.

Track racing consist of ten events that are divided into three groups namely Sprint events, Endurance events and Combined event (Omnium). Some events are only done by Elite and/or Junior riders, therefore omitting Juveniles and/or Masters. A track cyclist becomes a Master at the age of 35. The ten events are:

  1. Individual Sprint – Qualification consists of a flying start 200m time trial. These are followed by knockout heats of 2-3 laps. The best two riders will compete for Gold in the final. Sometimes riders will come to a standstill (called a track stand) in an effort to make their opponent take the lead, which is the least advantageous position before the final sprint to the finish line.
  2. Team Sprint – This is raced by teams of three riders over three laps of the track (women ride with 2 riders, 2 laps). At the end of each lap the front rider leaves the track until only one remains. After the heats, the 2 best teams line up to contest the final. Those that registered the 3rd and 4th fastest times meet up in a B final to determine the winner of the Bronze medal.
  3. Time Trial – Different distances for different age categories and gender. This is an individual time trial from a standing start. The competitor with the fastest time is the winner.
  4. Keirin – Between 3 and 7 riders compete in a sprint race of 600-700m after having followed in the slipstream of a pacing motorbike for the first 1400m. The motorbike gradually increases the speed from 30-50 km/h (25-45 km/h for women).
  5. Individual Pursuit – Two riders start on opposite sides of the track and compete over different distances for different categories. The winner is the rider who manages to catch his/her opponent or who records the fastest time.
  6. Team Pursuit – Two teams of 4 riders (3 for women) start on opposite sides of the track and compete over different distances for different categories. The winning team is the one that manages to catch its opponents or that record the fastest time. The time is taken when the 3rd rider crosses the line.
  7. Points race – A bunch event over a set distance with points available at ‘intermediate sprints’ for the first four riders across the line. Points are given for lapping the field but are also subtracted for being lapped by the field. This is one of the most physically and mentally demanding events on the track, with speed, stamina, technical skill and tactical awareness all required in large amounts. The final lap is the deciding round if 2 or more on the same amount of points, the rider with the most points is the winner. Distance depends on age & gender.
  8. Madison – Up to 18 teams of two riders take part in this relay race contested by means of intermediary sprints. While one team member races, the other slows down to take a rest, the other rider then uses the ‘slingshot’ method to throw the resting rider back into the race. The classification is established according to the distance covered and the points won in the sprints. The Madison is held over distances of 25-50km for Elite Men depending on the competition.
  9. Scratch race – This is a race for up to 24 individual riders over distances according to age & gender. This is the simplest of all endurance events and the first rider across the line wins. The first lap is neutralised.
  10. Omnium (combined event) – The Omnium is made up of 6 events and is disputed over 2 consecutive days. 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. The Men’s race consist of: Scratch race (15km), Individual pursuit (4km), Elimination, Time trial (1km), Flying sprint, Points race (40km). The Women’s race consist of: Scratch race (10km), Individual pursuit (3km), Elimination, Time trial (500m), Flying sprint, Points race (25km).

Track cycling is suitable for a wide range of riders. Sprint athletes tend to be muscular and capable of producing massive power for short distances while endurance riders are lighter and more suited to maintaining high speeds over longer distances.