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The trackcycling guide to track cycling


Confused by the bewildering variety of events at the World Track Championships? National Masters Sprint Champion and trackcycling coaching columnist Lee Povey explains all.


A straight first-across-the-line race over 15km for men and 10km for women. Typically a fast and aggressive race with lots of attacking. The endurance riders will try and break away to gain a lap while those with a better sprint will try and keep the race together to win the bunch gallop. Named when most races were handicapped, in the scratch race, everyone went off from scratch.

Match Sprint

Raced over 3 laps of a 250m track for both men and women this is the most tactical of track races. Proceedings start with a flying 200m time trial to seed the riders who are then matched in pairs, slowest against fastest. From the quarter finals onwards the races are run on a best of three basis.

Races tend to start slowly with riders trying to psyche each other out and manoeuvre their opponent into a position that gives them an advantage – then the racers explode into action and hit speeds of 40mph and over while racing shoulder to shoulder.

Team sprint

Raced over 2 laps for women and 3 for men, each rider completes a lap then swings off the time being taken when the final rider completes the distance. A fast start is vital in the race, as is a well matched team.


Raced over 40km for men and 25km for women, with sprints every ten laps for points. The winner is the rider who has accumulated the most points throughout the race by either winning/places in the intermediate sprints – or by taking a lap which is worth 20 points. These races are typically gruelling with many exciting attacks and the best riders are both fast in a sprint and have excellent recovery to allow them to put in and chase down repeated attacks.


A points race with a twist. Raced over 50km with sprints every 20 laps for points, pairs of riders compete with one rider ‘active’ at any time and the other resting. The resting rider becomes active when his partner hand slings him in to the race. One crucial difference between the madison and the points race is that taking laps is far more important with the race being determined by the number of laps gained. If two or more teams finish on the same number of laps, the finishing orders is determined by the number of points scored.

Time trial

Set over a 1000m for men (known as ‘the kilo’) and 500m for women, this is a straight out, fastest time wins. Traditionally a sprinters event with the fastest starters tending to hold on to win, occasionally an exceptionally talented endurance rider can upset the odds with a very fast finish.


Over 4000m for men and 3000m for women. The event pits one rider against another starting on opposite sides of the track, the winner being the rider to complete the distance in the fastest time or to catch the other rider before the distance is completed.

Team pursuit

Again for both men and, recently, women, over the same distance as the individual pursuits. The difference is that the men compete with a team of four and the women in teams of three.

In the men’s event the time is taken on the third rider to cross the line so teams often sacrifice one rider on the way to allow them a faster time. In the women’s race all the riders must finish and the time is taken on the last rider of the team to cross the line.

The speeds are considerably faster than the individual pursuits and the riders tend to need a mix of both endurance and kilo-rider speed.


Raced over 8 laps this unusual event starts with riders (usually 6) lined up next to each other on the track, they then fight for position behind a derny (like a small motor bike). The derny sets the pace with riders able to jostle for position behind it but not over take it. The pace rises to 50kph for men and 45kph for women before the derny swings off with two and a half laps to go, leaving the riders free to race to the finish.


A collection of events mixed together for one title, the winner being the rider with the best overall placing in all the event’s different disciplines. The events are 200m time trial, pursuit, scratch and points race and finishes with a 500m time trial for women and a kilo for men. This event is well suited to endurance riders with a good sprint.


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