Olympic Sports


Part two of Fixture Calendar’s series which gives a rundown of some of the best Olympic sports and events will focus on track cycling. Here we will give a rundown of the rules, different events, history, and who to watch out for at the Paris Olympic Games this summer.

Track cycling has featured in all but one modern Olympic Games, with the exception being Stockholm in 1912, due to the city not having a velodrome to host the events. Modern Olympic track cycling takes place on indoor, oval-shaped, banked velodromes which total 250m in length. At the Paris Olympics, the different cycling disciplines will be contested in four different locations, with track cycling taking place at the Vélodrome de Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines in Montigny-le-Bretonneux, France.A Track Cyclist at the 2016 Summer Olympics

Great Britain is generally considered the strongest nation in track cycling and are the most successful nation overall in the Olympics medal tables for this sport, winning 79 total medals, 33 of which are gold, with only France coming close to these totals, with 28 golds and 67 total medals. The most successful Olympic track cyclist of all time is Brit Jason Kenny, with seven golds and two silvers, with Chris Hoy just behind with six golds and silver. Laura Kenny is the most successful female track cyclist with five gold medals and one silver. Both Jason and Laura Kenny became the most successful Olympians in British history. However, the country’s domination of the sport faltered in Tokyo. Whilst still successful, the Netherlands matched Britain’s three gold medals, with six other golds being shared by other nations. Compared to the six won at the Rio Olympics just five years earlier, a total of three would have been seen as a disappointment.

There are 12 different track cycling events taking place at Paris this summer which are gender-balanced, with both men and women competing in the same six events. Of these events, three are contested in teams, and three individually. The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo saw a return of the Madison events, which were removed from the Olympic program in 2012.

The track cycling events which will be on show at the Paris Olympics are the Sprint, Team Sprint, Keirin, Team Pursuit, Omnium, and Madison, all of which having both a male and female category, as mentioned. Let’s take a look at the specific events and their athletes more in detail.

Starting with the individual events, the Men’s and Women’s Individual Sprint. Initially, a short time-trial determines who qualifies for the heats. From the Quarter-Final onwards, the event consists of close, tactical, head-to-head races over 3 three laps; the riders start next to each other and will fight for the best position for the final sprint. After the Quarterfinals and Semifinals, there are also repechages providing alternative routes through to the next round.

In the men’s event, Harrie Lavreysen from the Netherlands took the gold in Tokyo, with his compatriot Jeffrey Hoogland finishing in second. Both riders also claimed gold in the Men’s Team Sprint; Brit Jack Carlin finished in third place in 2021. In this year’s event, it is expected that Lavreysen will challenge for gold yet again this year, after claiming top spot in the Individual Sprint at the 2024 UEC European Track Cycling Championships in January.

In the Women’s Individual Sprint, Kelsey Mitchell from Canada came out on top in Tokyo, meaning since Félicia Ballanger defended her 1996 gold in 2000 at the Sydney Games, no other rider has repeated this feat, meaning the Women’s Individual Sprint is always difficult to predict, which is always exciting from a fan’s perspective.

The next individual event at the Olympics is the Keirin, which is contested over eight laps. The Keirin was first introduced to the Olympic Games as men’s event in Sydney in 2000, whilst it took till London 2012 for it to be introduced as a women’s event. The event runs over 8 laps in total, with 6-7 competitors per race. For the first laps, the riders jostle for position behind the derny (a motorised bike which laps at gradually increasing speeds), then with 2.5 laps to go, the derny pulls off and the sprinting begins.

In the Men’s Keirin in Tokyo, Jason Kenny defended his gold from Rio in 2016, which along with his silver in the Team Sprint, made him the most successful Olympian in British history, as well as the most successful track cyclist of all time. Unfortunately, Kenny won’t return for another Olympics, meaning a great chance for another rider to claim gold in Paris. Lavreysen will go in as favourite, being the gold medal holder for the Individual Sprint and winning gold at the 2024 UEC European Track Cycling Championships.

In the women’s event, Shanne Braspennincx won gold in Tokyo, but as she has now retired, the likes of Britain’s Emma Finucane and German Lea Sophie Friedrich look amongst those likely to claim gold this summer.

The final individual event is the Omnium, which consists of four events all raced in a single day. These events are the scratch race (points awarded by finishing order - 10km for men; 7.5km for women), tempo race (points awarded for winning sprints every 10 laps and lapping the pack; points deducted for being lapped - 10km for men; 7.5km for women), elimination race (every 500m the last placed rider is eliminated), and points race (as the tempo race, but longer at 25km for men, and 20km for women). These points are all added together to determine the overall standings.

In the Women’s Omnium, USA’s Jennifer Valente won gold in Tokyo, beating out Yumi Kajihara from the host nation. Valente recently won gold at the 2023 UCI Track Cycling World Championships, so will go in as one of the favourites to win the event this summer in Paris.

The Men’s Omnium was won by Brit Matthew Walls, but compatriot Ethan Hayter, who won gold in this event at the 2024 UEC European Track Cycling Championships and Iúri Leitão from Portugal who won the 2023 UCI Track Cycling World Championships event look likely to challenge for the gold in Paris.

Next, let’s look at the team events which will be on show at the Paris Olympic Games. First up, the team sprint. This is often considered one of the most exciting events in track cycling. The Men’s Team Sprint is contest in teams of three over three laps of the velodrome.

Track cyclist at the 2016 Summer OlympicsRacing in a line, each rider completes one lap at the front, before pulling off, and the race finishes when the final rider crosses the line at the end of the third lap. This event requires good teamwork - it is important the rider on the front doesn’t get away from his teammates, so they can continue to “draft” behind him, but he must also not hold them up. Even the smallest mistakes can cost teams gold.

In the Men’s Team Sprint, the Netherlands won last time out, continuing their newfound grasp on the format, after Jeffrey Hoogland, Harrie Lavreysen and Roy van den Berg set the world record of 41.225 at the 2020 World Championships. It is likely that the Dutch riders will fancy their chances again in Paris, with the same three riders claiming gold at the 2023 UCI Track Cycling World Championships and the 2024 UEC European Track Cycling Championships.

In the Women’s Sprint, which up until 2021 has been competed by just two riders per team over two laps, was won in Tokyo by Chinese riders Bao Shanj and Zhong Tianshi, continuing China’s dominance of this event, where Zhong Tianshi has won gold in the previous two Olympics. Paris 2024 will be the first Olympics to see gender parity in this event, as the women’s event will now feature three riders per team over three laps. Since the change of format, the German trio of Pauline Grabosch, Emma Hinze and Lea Friedrich have dominated, winning gold in the past four UCI Track Cycling World Championships golds and won gold at the recent 2024 UEC European Track Cycling Championships, so it is unlikely anybody will stand a chance against them.

The Team Pursuit, which is an endurance event, see teams of four compete over four kilometres, which equates to 16 laps of the velodrome. They can take turns on the front, and the clock stops when the third team member crosses the line (head-to-head rounds can end before this if one team catches the other). In the first, “qualifying” round, teams race to set the fastest time in what is effectively a time trial. From this, the fastest eight times qualify into the knockout rounds which determine final placings. Again, teamwork is required in addition to individual power, as riders must balance the amount of time they spend on the front, and not pull away from their teammates.

The Men’s pursuit was last won by the Italian team in Tokyo, which ended Great Britain’s dominance in the event, which they won gold in the previous three Olympics, but couldn’t event make it to the podium positions last time out, finishing a disappointing seventh overall. The recent 2023 UCI Track Cycling World Championships was won by runners-up Denmark, whilst Denmark were demoted to silver at the 2024 UEC European Track Cycling Championships by a reinvigorated British team; Italy finished second and third in these two events, respectively, so it is expected that the Men’s Team Pursuit will be one of the most highly competitive events overall.Revolution 40 Event at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome

In the Women’s Team Pursuit, Germany won gold in Tokyo, with Great Britain just losing out to them to earn silver. Great Britain went on to win gold at the 2023 UCI Track Cycling World Championships and second at the 2024 UEC European Track Cycling Championships, so will be looking to build on this success in Paris this summer.

The final event to be discussed is the newly reintroduced event, the Madison, which returned to the Olympics for the first time since 2008 in Tokyo. Tokyo also saw the first ever Women’s Madison race. The men’s event is contested over 50km and the women’s event over 30km, both with 16 teams. Teams consist of two riders; generally, one is an endurance rider, and the other a sprinter. At any one time, one team member is resting and the other racing, and they swap over with a hand sling. Points are gained for lapping the bunch, and points are lost for being lapped. There are also sprints every 10 laps for bonus points, and the final sprint scores double points.

The inaugural Women’s Madison was won by British duo Katie Archibald and Laura Kenny, and after a win at the 2023 UCI Track Cycling World Championships from Neah Evans and Elinor Barker, Great Britain look like they will be strong to compete for the gold again.

The last Men’s Madison at the Olympics was won by Danish pair Lasse Norman Hansen and Michael Mørkøv, with Brits Ethan Hayter and Matthew Walls finishing in second in Tokyo. It looks likely that the Netherlands and Great Britain will be amongst those competing for top spot in Paris.

Track cycling is one of the most exciting and fast-paced sports at the Olympics, and you shouldn’t expect different from the events on show at Paris 2024. As Great Britain’s dominance of previous years has lessened, this opens the chance up for even more competitive events.

This year’s Summer Olympics will take place from 26 July to 11 August in Paris, France. You can easily keep up-to-date and stay informed on every track cycling event happening at Paris 2024 by creating a Fixture Calendar account or downloading our App.

Why not also check out our This Week in Sport blog, for a rundown or the top sporting events happening each week or get a useful overview of the 15 most exciting events taking place each month with our Fixture Calendar newsletter here.

Harry Stephens, May 2024

Photos by Javid Nikpour, Brian Townsley

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