Track cycling

Track cycling

Track cycling is a bicycle racing sport usually held on specially-built banked tracks or velodromes (but many events are held at older velodromes where the track banking is relatively shallow) using track bicycles.

Track racing is also done on grass tracks marked out on flat sportsfields. Such events are particularly common during the summer in Scotland at Highland Games gatherings, but there are also regular summer events in England.

Riding position

The bicycles are designed to reduce aerodynamic drag caused by the machine itself and the rider's racing position.

Handlebars on track bikes used for longer events such as the points race are similar to the drop bars found on road bicycles. The riding position is also similar to the road racing position.

In the sprint event the rider's position is more extreme compared with a road rider. The bars are lower and the saddle is higher and more forward. Bars are often narrower with a deeper drop. Steel bars are still used by many sprinters for their higher rigidity and durability.

In timed events such as the pursuit and the kilo, riders often use aerobars or 'triathlon bars' similar to those found on road time trial bicycles, allowing the rider to position the arms closer together in front of the body. This results in a more horizontal back and presents the minimum frontal area to reduce drag. Aerobars can be separate bars that are attached to time trial or bull horn bars, or they can be part of a one-piece monocoque design. Use of aerobars is permitted only in pursuit and time trial events.

Formats of track cycle races are also heavily influenced by aerodynamics. If one rider closely follows, they draft or slipstream another, because the leading rider pushes air around themselves; any rider closely following has to push out less air than the lead rider and thus can travel at the same speed while expending less effort. This fact has led to a variety of racing styles that allow clever riders or teams to exploit this tactical advantage, as well as formats that simply test strength, speed and endurance.

During the early 1990s in individual pursuit events, some riders, most notably Graeme Obree, adopted a straight-armed "Superman"-like position with their arms fully extended horizontally, but this position was subsequently outlawed by the Union Cycliste Internationale, the sport's ruling body. Recumbent bicycles can actually be ridden faster, but are banned from UCI competition. The International Human Powered Vehicle Association is a separate organisation that runs recumbent races, including the human-powered speed record.

Main centres

Track cycling is particularly popular in Europe, notably Belgium, France, Germany and the United Kingdom where it is often used as off-season training by road racers (professional six-day 'Madison' events were often entered by two-man teams comprising a leading road racer and a track specialist).

The sport also has significant followings in Japan and Australia. It is part of the Summer Olympic Games, and there are UCI Track World Championships as well as circuits of professional events in many areas.

In the United States, track racing reached a peak of popularity in the 1930s when six-day races were held in Madison Square Garden in New York. The word "Madison" is still used as the name for this type of race in six-day racing.

Race formats

Some of the most common race formats include:

*Individual pursuit
*Team pursuit
*Team sprint
*Track time trial
*Points race
*Miss and Out, elimination or 'Devil Take the Hindmost'
*Motor-paced events, such as Keirin racing - cyclists draft behind a derny, sometimes using specialized track bikes called stayers
*Scratch race

Track records

In addition to regular track racing, tracks are also the venue for many cycling records. These are over either a fixed distance or for a fixed period of time. The most famous of these is the hour record, which involves simply riding as far as possible in one hour. The history of the hour record is replete with exploits by some of the greatest names in cycling from both road and track racing (including, among others, Major Taylor, Henri Desgrange, Fausto Coppi, Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Francesco Moser, Miguel Indurain and Tony Rominger). Originally, attempts were made at velodromes with reputations for being fast (such as the Velodromo Vigorelli in Milan). More recently, attempts have moved to high-altitude locations, such as Mexico City, where the thinner air results in lower aerodynamic drag, which more than offsets the added difficulty of breathing. Innovations in equipment and the rider's position on the bike have also led to dramatic improvements in the hour record, but have also been a source of controversy (see Graeme Obree).

Links to individual velodromes

Cities that host the Summer Olympic games usually construct a new velodrome for the event. World-class competition quality tracks not yet included in this section are located in Moscow, Seoul, Barcelona, Sydney and Athens.

ee also

* Union Cycliste Internationale
* Schuermann
* Velodrome
* Six-day racing

External links

* [ The Velodrome (, A home for Track Cycling on the web]
* [ FixedGearFever (, The Virtual Velodrome - the largest track cycling community on the net!]
* [ - South Africa's first dedicated track cycling site]
* [ USA Cycling - Track]
* [ British Cycling track news and information site]
* [ Number one source for Track Equipment, Keirin Cycle Culture Cafe, Berlin]

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