The events explained

Introductory guide to the three sprint events

Last updated: 15th February 2011  

The events explained

The action is fierce on the boards

The UCI Track World Cup Classics are the first rung on the ladder towards Olympic Games qualification - they determine each country's international ranking and provide a showcase for some of the best track cycling on the planet.

Manchester will host the third and final round of the 2010-11 series and what transpires over the three days of action there will decide which nation takes the overall World Cup crown.

As well as all that, the event also provides the last international competition before the World Championships take place in Apeldoorn, Holland between 23-27 March.

The race programme mirrors the events you will see at the 2012 Olympics in London, and so provides the perfect place for newcomers to really get into the sport, learn about its leading athletes, and experience the thrill of witnessing the world's best cyclists in action.

Britain has several outdoor tracks, but most modern track races are held in indoor velodromes, such as at the National Cycling Centre in Manchester. Newport also has an indoor track, and there are new velodromes being built in London, for the 2012 Olympic Games, and Glasgow, for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

All velodromes, indoor and outdoor, are designed for speed. They have steeply banked corners and short straights, though the length of the track varies. Most are 250 metres, but there are exceptions. Outdoor tracks can be as long as 400m, and some indoor tracks are smaller - Ghent, home to a famous six-day race in the winter, measures a compact 167m.

The advantage of the banked corners is that they help riders maintain speed - the top riders can hit 50mph when they're going flat out.

Track racing is fast, explosive and spectator-friendly. The races can be confusing, but they can be broadly split into two types - sprint and endurance - and it's the former category which is the focus for Sky Track Cycling.

Here is a run-down of some of the events the team will be competing in:

Keirin:

One of the best track spectacles, the keirin is a battle between six to nine riders which culminates in an all-out burst of pace over the final two laps.

In one of the more unusual sights at the velodrome, riders are initially motor-paced following a derny bike which slowly ramps up to full race speed.

This period of the race represents the calm before the storm yet is still a crucial time as the riders jockey for position before the sprint.

The race to be first rider behind the derny is hotly-contested, as with two laps to go, the bike leaves the track and the sprint is on.

The keirin is a discipline that Sir Chris Hoy has made his own down the years, clinching an Olympic gold medal last time out in Beijing.

Individual sprint:

The individual sprint sees two riders pitting their wits against each other over a distance of one kilometre.

Although to a novice this could seem like a relatively straightforward event, it is in fact a highly tactical form of racing that sees much of the action play out before the final sprint kicks in.

The first few laps are often nervy, with both riders reluctant to lead out the sprint from the front and adopting various forms of stalling tactics in the process.

It is not uncommon for riders to pressurise each other into mistakes. They can do this by coming to a complete halt during the early laps (a term known as a stationary track stand) or holding back before trying to get the drop on their opponent from the highest point of the track.

Races in this discipline are frequently decided by millimetres, but before a rider can take his place at the top of the podium he or she must first progress through an arduous qualifying programme of up to three races before they even make it into the final.

This type of racing rewards raw power and Victoria Pendleton has become the undisputed queen of the event in recent years, winning the world title an incredible five times in addition to her Olympics glory in 2008.

Sir Chris Hoy has also revolutionised the discipline, using his explosive kick to leave his opponents standing over the final two-lap burst.

Team sprint:

Put simply, the team sprint is a drag race from the gun, forgoing tactics in favour of out-and-out speed.

The number of competitors on each team varies between the men's and women's races, with the men setting off in three-man teams for three laps, while the women do two laps with two riders.

The discipline sees both teams start on opposite sides of the velodrome and demands that every rider buries themselves for the cause, with each one taking a turn on the front for a lap. The race is an all-out battle for speed and is invariably decided by fractions of a second.

A strong sprint team requires a powerful rider to kick things off from a standing start, as well as a lighting fast finisher.

Sky Track Cycling is in the enviable position of having two of the most formidable sprint teams in world cycling.

In BMX-turned track star Shanaze Reade, Victoria Pendleton has found the perfect partner and the two riders combined beautifully to win two consecutive world titles in 2007 and 2008.

The men's team also houses two of the three current Olympic team sprint champions in Sir Chris Hoy and Jason Kenny, not to mention the reigning British national team sprint champions in Kenny and Ross Edgar. Matt Crampton is also highly-accomplished in the discipline and was part of the silver-medal winning team at the 2009 World Championships.

It has been confirmed that the Sky Track Cycling riders will feature in the following events in Manchester:

Friday

Men's Sprint: Sir Chris Hoy and Jason Kenny
Women's Team Sprint: Victoria Pendleton and Shanaze Reade

Saturday

Women's Sprint: Victoria Pendleton
Men's Keirin: Sir Chris Hoy

Sunday

Men's Team Sprint: Sir Chris Hoy, Matt Crampton, Ross Edgar, Jason Kenny
Women's Keirin: Victoria Pendleton

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