Whether you’re competing at the velodrome or just catching the day’s contests, track racing is a completely different beast from your “every day” ride. In this series of PFTV videos, U.S. Olympic Track Cyclist Giddeon Massie and the Pure Fix Race Team will take you through the ins-and-outs of tackling the track.
In today’s episode, we’ll look at a couple common events you’re likely to find at your local drome – the Flying Lap and the Match Sprint.
The Flying Lap is an individual all-out sprint once around the drome. Competitors get a rolling start to get up to speed, the clock starts when they cross the start/finish line and stops once they make it back around. Shortest time = highest average speed = the win. Often used for qualifiers and to set fields for events, the Flying Lap is a staple at the velodrome and mastering it is essential to becoming a competitive track racer. Let’s break down the keys to a successful run.
Wind-Up: Stay High
Before the clock starts, you’ll make a lap at your own pace to get the bike up to speed and hit the line flying. You want to be high up on the track during this, right up near the wall so when you’re ready to really start jamming you can drop down the banking and use that “downhill roll” to boost your speed going into your timed lap. For the first 3 corners you should stay high on the outside, gradually accelerating your way to top speed so that by the exit of turn three you’re really mashing and ready to dive through turn 4 and into your lap!
Turn 4: Dive Down and Dig
Going into turn 4 you’re high on the track, out of the saddle, jamming as hard as you can. Once you’re ready to attack for the start/finish and kickoff your timed lap, you want to dive all the way down the banking towards the black line and power down the front stretch. Try to make your drop about ¾ of the way through the turn so you can have a straight shot to the line, smoothly power your way back into the saddle, and get in an aero tuck to squeeze every ounce of speed out of your run.
Stick to the Black Line
And you’re off! With the clock running you just need to focus on pedaling as hard as you can, staying as aerodynamic as possible, and riding the black line. That line on the inside of the track marks the shortest way around the drome so it’s the fastest route (and any efforts to move up the track will scrub speed as you have to use some energy to move the bike “up-hill”). Keep powering through all four corners, give everything you can to hit the line, and you’re done!
You should feel exhausted. But you should also feel fast.
Now let’s take a look at one of the most popular two-competitor events, the Match Sprint.
Match Sprinting is a duel between two riders that tests bike handling, strategy, and focus as much as it does leg power. Over the course of a few laps, riders will jockey slowly for position, trying to set themselves up for the final sprint, and it ends with an all-out hammerfest for the finish line, both riders essentially in a drag race for the win. So what are the keys to a successful Match Sprint? Let’s take a look!
All About Position
Because drafting and aerodynamics play such a huge role on the effort required to move the bike at 40+mph, there’s a tremendous advantage to the rider in second place heading into the final sprint. That’s because they’ll be using less energy to get their bike up to speed and will have gas left in the tank to slip around the leader in the final stretch and steal a victory. That said, you want to do your best to keep your opponent in front of you and that’s why the early laps of match sprints are usually slow and strategic, as opposed to being about pure speed.
At the start of the race, move up the track towards the wall, and do your best to keep your opponent in front of you. Staying high means you can “dive down” for some extra speed when it’s time to sprint for the finish and turning your bike up the track will slow you down and hopefully let your opponent slip past you so you can be in that advantageous 2nd place spot. Don’t worry about a small gap either – it’s always easier to close up a little gap between you than it is to win from the front, and staying too close your opponent’s wheel might let them out-maneuver you and get behind you. Especially if they come to a complete stop…
That’s right – not only is stopping allowed in Match Sprints, it’s actually a necessary skill to have to be a competitive racer. Riders aren’t allowed to put a foot down or ride backwards, but if you can trackstand and hold your bike perfectly still, your opponent will essentially be forced to do the same (or give up the 2nd position) and then it’s just a matter of who can hold out longer. At the pro level, you’ll often see Match Sprints start with a series of long-held trackstands as the riders try to out-handle their opponents for position.
Draft and Mash
Eventually, one of the riders will concede that they’re not going to get behind their opponent and make a sprint for the finish. If you’re out front and you notice the other guy look away, that can be a great chance to make your break as any gap you can create between you will hurt their drafting advantage.
If you’re in second place, though, this is what you’ve been waiting for. Once the lead riders jumps on it, dive down the banking behind them and tuck up in that draft. You should be able to ride comfortably in their wake and duck around for the win in the final turns or the front stretch. The most important thing is to grab onto the draft once the lead rider breaks, and after that it’s just a matter of pedaling your way around for the win!
And now that you’re familiar with two of the most common events at the velodrome, head over to your local and get practicing! You’ll want to be ready for the next Omnium – and we’ll see you there!