Track Cycling in the 2012 London Summer Olympics - dummies

Track Cycling in the 2012 London Summer Olympics

In the 2012 London Summer Olympics, 188 athletes will compete in track cycling events at the Olympic Park Velodrome August 2–7. One hundred eighty-eight men and 84 women will compete in five events for medals: keirin, sprint, omnium, team pursuit, and team sprint.

  • In the keirin competition, up to seven athletes race, and a pacing motorcycle (a derny) is used at the beginning of the race and until the last 600 meters or so. The motorcycle rider begins the pace at about 25 kilometers per hour and gradually increases the pace.

    Keirin races started in Japan in the 1940s, but the first Olympic race wasn’t until 2000.

  • In the sprint, athletes compete in a series of races, each of which consists of three laps.

  • In the omnium, athletes race six elements — a flying lap against the clock, a points race, an elimination race, an individual pursuit, a scratch race, and a time trial. Like golf, you want to score low in the omnium, meaning that the first finisher in each event is awarded one point, the second place receives two points, and so on. The time trial is used to break any point ties.

    The omnium event is premiering at the 2012 London Games and takes the place of three previous Olympic cycling events — the individual pursuit, the points race, and the madison.

  • In the team pursuit, the three-member men’s team race for 16 laps and the two-member women’s team for 12 laps.

  • In the team sprint, the men compete in three-member teams and the women compete in two-member teams.

Each country can enter only nine men and seven women, which means they have only one competitor or team in each of the five events.

Track cycling has been part of the Olympics since 1896, but women didn’t begin competing until 1988.

The riders must be in top form with great timing and stamina. The 250 meter Velodrome’s track is oval and banked from 12 degrees to 42 degrees. And, as with all the cycling sports, track cycling has a veritable bevy of officials, including those who monitor just the start or finish of the races, score keepers, and timekeepers.

For more information about track cycling, check out the Cycling Track page on For a full schedule of the 2012 Olympic Games, check out the official website for this summer’s Games, at