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Rob Hayles

Professional Cyclist & TV Commentator

Track Racing

Track Racing has grown in popularity following the success of Team GB in the Olympics and World Championships.

The Tracks:

Track racing takes place on short specially built tracks consisting of two tight, banked corners joined by two short straights. Tracks range hugely in length - outdoor tracks usually being longer and with shallower banks - but Olympic and World Championship Track racing is generally held on indoor 250m wooden tracks. Many outdoor tracks are concrete or tarmac surfaced.

The Bikes:

Track bikes are relatively simple, lacking the gears and brakes of their road cousins. With bikes having a fixed wheel (forcing you to pedal continuously) the rider controls speed through pressure applied to the pedals. Bikes fall into two broad categories:

> Upright bikes with conventional dropped handlebars, traditional spoked or carbon spoked wheels. These bikes are used for bunch races, Keirin and Match Sprint.

> Low-profile bikes, with extended 'trathalon' style bars, allowing the rider to adopt a more aerodynamic position. Wheels are often four-spoked carbon or carbon disc. Handling and manoeuvrability are sacrificed for aerodynamic efficiency. These bikes are used for pursuit races and Kilo and 500m time trial.

Team Pursuit:

Men race in teams of four over 4000m and women in teams of three over 3000m. The major difference to the individual version is that the riders share the workload, with the lead rider staying at the front for only a lap or so before swinging up the track (right) and re-joining the three or four rider line at the back. A technical event, team-mates often ride only centimetres apart to maximise slipstreaming effects. In the men's event, times are taken on the third rider of the team to cross the line: the slowest rider in a team often sacrifices himself in later stages of the event and pulls up the track to let his team-mates complete the race without him.

Madison Racing:

The madison is a conventional race with riders in each team riding part of the distance, handing over to the other member, resting, and then returning to the race. Teams are usually of two riders but occasionally of three. Only one of the team is racing at any time and the replacement rider has to be touched before he can take over. The touch can also be a push or one rider hurling the other into the race by a hand-sling.

How long each rider stays in the race is for each team to decide. The aim of each team is to ride more laps than any of the others. Tied positions are split by points awarded for placing’s at a series of sprints at intervals during the race.