Cycling World Magazine July 2017 - Page 70

70 | Cycling World Understanding Track Competitions By Phil Jones, T rack cycling can seem like an impenetrable beast to the uninitiated, with seemingly complicated races, convoluted rules and technical jargon that makes you feel like you need a glossary to understand. Sprints In actual fact, track cycling races are very simple when you know what s going on. There really is nothing quite like going to a track event to fully understand the basic rules, the nuances, the tactics and the technical terms. The team sprint, on the other hand, more resembles a team pursuit, with the competing teams starting on opposite straights on the track. The concept is still the same though; three laps of the track and the fastest wins, only in the team sprint a rider peels off at the end of each lap, until you re ust left with one man to take on the final lap, solo. The recent C Track World Championships in ong Kong saw ten events run for both men and women. Keen observers will note that figure is substantially higher than the five contested at last summer s Olympic ames in Rio, where track cycling got its biggest exposure to the world. Sporting politics, a desire to have the same number of medals contested between men and women, and the Olympic Games not wanting to become too overblown are the main reasons behind the disparity in races between the two events, meaning even those au- fait with Olympic track cycling may still be missing out on the best of the action. Track events can broadly be split into two categories bunch races and tests against the clock. They can also be split into sprint and endurance events, but more on that later. Against the clock Pursuits One of the simplest races to watch and understand is the individual pursuit. Two riders set off on opposite sides of the track, both aiming to complete 4km in the shortest amount of time. The fastest one wins, and if one rider manages to catch the other before the 4km distance is reached, then that also counts as a win. The team pursuit follows the exact same format, ust that there are four riders competing in each team and they take turns to ride at the front of their quartet, putting in the greatest effort to punch a hole in the air while their teammates roll along behind in their slipstream, before swinging up and joining the back of the queue. The individual sprint sees two riders race head-to-head over three laps, with the first one to cross the finish line the winner – simple as that. Keirin An event that hails from a history of gambling in apan, where a field of six riders set off behind a pacing motorbike known as a derny. The bike takes three laps to get up to a speed of around km h, before pulling off the track to leave a six-way sprint over three further laps the first rider over the line wins. Time trials A test of speed and endurance, there’s nothing much to understand here. The men race over one kilometre, which has led to the race commonly being known as the kilo, while the women race over 500m. Each rider takes it in turns to set their mark over the distance from a standing start, and the fastest wins – simple. Bunch races Scratch race A scratch race is as simple as a race can be. The bunch set off on a race over a pre-determined distance and the first rider to complete that distance is the winner. Complications come when riders launch attacks to try and gain a lap on the field. f a rider does successfully break from the front of the bunch and ride away until they re oin at the rear of the field, then they will inevitably complete the allotted distance a lap earlier than their competitors and will be declared the winner. If two or more riders take a lap on the field, the winner will be the first over the line in the ensuing sprint.