Glossary of track racing events

Cyclists in track racing contest.

Track racing covers a number of different disciplines requiring a wide range of skills. Here are the main events you’ll find on the bill at any race meeting…


Either individual or teams of four. Riders start on opposite sides of the track and aim to catch their rivals, or finish the overall distance (4km) in the fastest time. In team events, the time is taken from the third rider to cross the line, so it’s important to remain information.


Individual or team. Short, fast and furious. Held over distances from 250m up to 1,000m. In team events, each rider takes turns setting the pace before dropping off to allow the next rider to take over. By the final lap, just one rider is left, going full pelt and attempting to be first to cross the line. Individual events can be very tactical, with riders aiming to stay behind their rival until the last moment, for maximum drafting benefit.

Points race

A mass start event, often with a packed track full of riders, all riding individually against the rest. Points are usually scored on every 10th lap, in a bunch sprint-it can get a bit frenetic! Riders can also score points for lapping the field. The total distance is usually 20 or 25km.


The most exciting race to watch but also the hardest to follow. The aim is to complete the most laps in a set time. Riders compete in teams of two, with only one rider active at a time, swapping over with a hand-sling. The inactive rider ‘rests’ by riding at an easy pace around the top of the track.


Also known as ‘Devil takes the hindmost’. A mass start event, with a big group of individual riders. Every few laps, the last rider in the bunch is eliminated until only one is left. Tactics are crucial -spend time on the front and you’ll use up your energy; ride in the group and you risk getting boxed in and stuck at the back on the elimination lap.


Japan’s answer to horse racing, invented over there in 1948 as a betting sport, but now also popular in Europe and elsewhere. The aim is simply to cross the finish line first. Now an Olympic sport, held over eight laps with the first few laps being ridden behind a derny bike (motorized bicycle) that gradually increases the pace.


A race for the all-rounders. This comprises six different events usually held across two days, starting with a scratch race (a bunch race over a set number of laps) followed by an individual pursuit, elimination race, time trial (standing start), flying lap (one-lap time trial with a rolling start) and finishing with a points race. One for true all-rounders.

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