Types of Track Races
This event is between two riders (one on one) over 3 laps of a velodrome. Riders play a tactical game of “cat and mouse” over the first couple of laps in an attempt to keep the actual sprint down to 200 – 300metres.
This event is an individual races against the clock over 500 – 1000metres.
Riders accumulate points through a series of sprints during the race on designated laps. The race distance varies from 5km to 40km depending on the competition and age groups.
Two riders start on opposite sides of the track and attempt to catch one another and to record the best time they can. The pursuit is held over distances from 2000 – 4000metres.
Same as the individual pursuit but raced in teams of four. Through the advantages of sitting on behind another rider and each rider doing a turn of pace at the front, a team will travel faster than an individual. The team time is based on the third riders to cross the finish line.
A Madison is a track event where two riders (one racing at a time) compete as a team. Similar to a relay but the riders make multiple changes throughout the event, which can run from 30 minutes to two hours.
A popular event in Australia, which features at most major track opens, however it is not a championship event. The handicap is usually run over 2000metres. Depending on the grading and past performances riders are allotted a handicap mark around the track.
A mass start race over a distance can vary between 5 – 20km depending on age, ability and event.
Other Track Races include Olympic Sprint, Keirin and Elimination.
A track bike has no hand brakes (not permitted), only one gear and the pedals and wheels are fixed. So when the bike moves forward the pedals and cranks do as well. Placing pressure on the pedals backwards reduces speed gradually, unlike hand brakes on a road or mountain bike, which are more rapid.
As track events are conducted in smaller areas (a velodrome), a fixed wheel bike is safer as it minimizes sudden braking (which occurs with the hand braking system) which reduces sudden sharp movements thereby making bunch riding on a track safer.
Without hand brakes, or additional gear shifting devices, a track bikes is lighter which makes it faster.
Gear selection for a track bike depends on age, ability and the type of event and needs to be performed manually by taking the back wheel out of the frames and unscrewing the rear cog. The front gear (chain ring/ cog) is fastened by 5 bolts that need to be taken out to change it.
Toe straps are rarely used in road and mountain bike events but are widely used in more explosive events like the “sprint” and “time trial” as they are more secure and reduce the chances of “pulling a foot” from the pedal.
Riding a “fixed Wheel” track bike
As mentioned earlier a track bike uses a “fixed wheel system”, for this reason it takes a little getting used to.
With the fixed wheel system, stopping is achieved by placing pressure backward on the pedals, which reduces the speed gradually. The fixed wheel system takes far more time and effort than a bike with hand brakes.
It is important to train on a track or velodrome before competing. Seek the advice of a track coach before starting out.
Riding a Velodrome/Track
Velodromes /tracks in Australia vary in length from 250 – 500metres, the smaller the track the greater the banking that is required on the bends. Banking on a velodrome can be as steep as 45 degrees. Given these facts, an important track cycling skill is to be able to ride on a velodrome/track safely and in control.
Short steep velodromes at speed can be easier to ride than longer flatter tracks, neither of which are that difficult to ride- but do require a little coaching guidance, practice and confidence.
Turns of pace and bunch riding
Turns of pace and bunch riding etiquette vary slightly for track events. Turns are done by using the banking of the velodrome, Riders “swing/ride” up the banking to allow the next rider to take their turn at the front. Track bunches are usually single file for the majority of a race. Towards the end of a track race the bunch will “fan out” with cyclists riding up to 5 across as they sprint to the finish line.