Cycling 101

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Team-oriented, mass-start events featuring a field of 150-180 riders. Teams are generally made up of eight to 10 riders, except at the Olympic Games where team sizes are limited to a maximum of five for men and four for women.


Pits individuals against the clock instead of against each other. It’s the most basic form of competitive cycling: the athlete with the fastest time over a given distance is the winner.


Stage races are multi-day races that string together several stages. The rider with the lowest cumulative time after all stages are complete is declared the winner.


Designed for spectators, criteriums are races held on short circuits, fast-paced events are usually 25-60 miles in length and last between one and two hours., the pace is fast from the gun as riders can average up to 30 miles per hour for the duration of the race.


Similar to stage races but instead recognize an overall winner based on the accumulation of points instead of lowest cumulative time. Following each stage, a rider is awarded points corresponding to his of her stage finish. Following the completion of the last stage, the rider with the most points is declared the winner.


Generally used to describe a race that covers several laps of a circuit that is more than a mile, but less than five miles. The course is longer than that of a criterium, but shorter than loops used in a road race.


Team time trial is simply a race against the clock with teams racing one at a time and working together to complete the course in the fastest possible time.


The Sprint is one of most exciting and elemental events on the track. It’s about pure speed over a short distance. The winner of this event is usually considered the fastest man on a bike across all disciplines of cycling. In the Sprint, riders will first compete in a 200-meter time trial to determine seed times.


Keirin pits riders against each other in mass sprints after initially being paced by a motorized bike called a “derny.” The pacer will begin at about 30 kilometers per hour and gradually increase the speed to over 50 kilometers per hour. With 600 meters remaining, the derny pulls off the track and leaves the competitors to battle it out for a massive sprint to the finish.


The Team Sprint is a test of speed and teamwork as three-man teams work together to post the fastest time over 750 meters (three laps).

The Team Sprint is a test of speed and teamwork as three-man teams work together to post the fastest time over 750 meters (three laps).


The Team Pursuit is a relatively short endurance event that pits teams of riders against both the clock and other teams. Teams work together to achieve the fastest time.


Best described as the decathlon of track cycling as it features several events to determine a best all-around rider. The competition includes the following events in order: the flying lap, the 20-kilometer points race, the elimination race, the 3,000-meter individual pursuit, the 10-kilometer scratch race and the 500-meter time trial.


The Individual Pursuit is a relatively short endurance event that pits riders against both the clock and each other.


The Points Race is a mass-start event which typically features 24 riders. The winner is the rider who accumulates the most points throughout the contest. Intermediate sprints occur every 10 laps as riders sprint for the finish line to earn points.


The Madison is another team event and is somewhat similar to the Points Race. In this mass-start event, 18 two-man teams race over a distance of 50 kilometers (200 laps). The winner is determined by scoring the most points of the teams who cover the greatest distance.


One of the simplest track events, riders start from a standstill and complete four laps of the track. The rider with the fastest time over the one-kilometer distance is declared the winner.


The women’s counterpart to the men’s 1-Kilometer Time Trial, the 500-Meter Time Trial features women contesting two laps of a 250-meter track beginning from a standstill. The woman who records the fastest time over a distance of 500 meters is declared the winner.


The simplest form of mass-start racing, fields of 24 riders race over a pre-determined distance. Men will contest 15 kilometers and women 10. The first rider across the finish line is declared the winner.


This endurance-oriented event is a mass-start competition which typically features 100-150 riders competing over rough terrain that includes everything from unpaved fire roads to technical singletrack filled with rocks, roots and ruts.


Similar to a criterium in road cycling, short track cross-county was introduced as a spectator-friendly discipline. It is an endurance-oriented event that features off-road racing on a short circuit. Traversing similar terrain, a short track cross-country race typically only lasts 20 minutes as competitors start and finish fast.


Off-road racing that covers longer-than-normal distances and/or lasts for several hours or more. Held on cross-country courses, marathons are defined by cycling’s international governing body as races that are 100 kilometers long or more. Ultra-endurance racing also comes in the form of 24-hour and 12-hour competitions in which solo competitors and relay teams attempt to cover the most distance over a given amount of time.


Competitors descend the face of a mountain in an individual race against the clock. The rider with the fastest time is declared the winner.


Once seeded into their respective brackets, riders descend a technical, downhill course with tight turns, berms and jumps. Riders start four-wide and descend the course simultaneously after the start gate drops.


Combines technical downhill sections of a course with flat and uphill sections typically found at a cross-country race.