The madison and other mysteries

Laura Trott leads the way in an elimination race

Britain’s Laura Trott will be looking to add to her five gold and four silver World Championships medals

Olympic and world champions Sir Bradley Wiggins and Laura Trott are among a strong British team racing in the annual World Track Cycling Championships, which start at London’s Olympic velodrome on Wednesday.

With Rio Olympics places up for grabs, Wiggins, who has won six world gold medals, is hoping to cement his place in the four-man pursuit team while Trott is looking to add to her five world titles in the women’s equivalent race and the six-event omnium.

Wiggins is also scheduled to rekindle his 2008 world title-winning partnership with Mark Cavendish in the madison, the last event of the five-day championships, on Sunday.

Cavendish too knows he needs a good showing to earn a place in the Team GB track line-up for Rio.

Recognise the star names but not sure what the madison is – or the omnium for that matter? Read on…



Last August, Wiggins and Cavendish rode in the madison at a Revolution Series event in Derby

A men-only 50km race for teams of two riders, named after Madison Square Garden in New York. One rider is always active in the 200-lap race, while the other continues to ride round, but is effectively ‘resting’ at the top of the track. When the active rider needs a breather, around every lap and a half or so, he ‘handslings’ his partner into the action.

With all teams racing at the same time, trying to gain a lap on their rivals, or win sprints for points every 20 laps, it is quite an impressive spectacle. If you gain a lap, you are in the lead, regardless of how many points you have. If nobody gains a lap, the points decide the winner.

GB riders: Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish. The pair were favourites to win the Olympic gold in Beijing in 2008, having already won the world title, but finished ninth. Cavendish also won the world madison title in 2005 with Rob Hayles. Only one other British pair have won a world medal – a silver for Ben Swift and Geraint Thomas in 2012.



Laura Trott won the World Cup omnium gold in London in 2014

A six-race event split equally over two days that tests sprinting and endurance, with the rider who gains the most points winning the omnium.

In the first five rounds, riders win points based on their finishing position. In the final points race, they are awarded points for winning sprints or gaining laps, or lose them by losing a lap.

Scratch race – a 15km race, where the winner is the first rider over the line. Women race over 10km.

Individual pursuit – a 4km race where the quickest time wins. Women race over 3km.

Elimination race – also known as the ‘Devil take the hindmost’ race. The last rider to cross the finish line every second lap is eliminated until one rider is left.

Time trial – a 1km race against the clock for men and 500m for women, from a standing start.

Flying lap – a 250m race against the clock, with a flying start.

Points race – 40km for men and 25km for women.

GB riders: Mark Cavendish and Laura Trott. With the madison no longer an Olympic event, this is Cavendish’s target for a place on the team for Rio. Trott won the world and Olympic title in 2012 and has finished runner-up in each of the past three years.

Team pursuit


Katie Archibald, Laura Trott, Joanna Rowsell Shand and Elinor Barker won the women’s team pursuit world title when it changed from three riders to four in 2014

The men’s and women’s teams both comprise four riders, racing over 4km. Two teams are on the track at the same time, one starting on the back straight, one on the home straight. The rules are simple – complete the distance in the quickest time possible, or catch your opponents in the final to win.

Drafting is crucial with riders racing millimetres behind each other. The time is stopped when the front wheel of the third rider crosses the line. This allows one member of the team to drop out during the race.

GB riders: The quartet of Steven Burke, Ed Clancy, Owain Doull and Andy Tennant won silver in this event a year ago. Wiggins is looking to force his way in, while Chris Latham and Jon Dibben are also included.

Britain’s women have won six out of eight team pursuit world titles, finishing second on the other two occasions. They were denied a fifth successive gold by Australia last year. Katie Archibald is out injured so joining Trott, Joanna Rowsell Shand and Elinor Barker in the endurance squad are Ciara Horne and Emily Nelson.

Individual pursuit


Welsh rider Ciara Horne was third in last year’s European Championships in Switzerland

A straight race against the clock over 4km for men and 3km for women. As with the team pursuit, one rider starts on the back straight, one on the home straight but they are competing against the clock rather than each other. The quickest two riders in qualifying contest the final, where to win you must catch the other rider or be first to complete the distance.

GB riders: The men have a rich history in this event with 14 golds but no medals have been won since Wiggins claimed his third world title in 2008. In the women’s race, Joanna Rowsell Shand won bronze two years ago in Colombia but may face competition from team-mate Ciara Horne who was third at the European Championships last year.

Team sprint


Phil Hindes, Jason Kenny and Callum Skinner were eighth in the team sprint at last year’s World Championships

The men’s race is a three-lap, three-man team time trial. After each lap, one rider drops out, leaving one man to race the final lap on his own. The quickest two teams in qualifying compete against each other in the final for the gold medal. The women’s race is a two-lap, two-woman affair.

GB riders: Twice an Olympic champion in this event, Jason Kenny is yet to win world gold, with two silvers and a bronze. He looks likely to team up with fellow Olympic champion Phil Hindes and 2014 European kilo winner Callum Skinner, the trio having won World Cup gold in January. Matt Crampton is also in the squad and has won world silver with Kenny.

The women are ninth in the UCI Olympic track rankings and must overtake France to qualify for Rio. Jess Varnish, who won world silver in 2011 and bronze with Becky James in 2014, looks set to ride with Katy Marchant after the duo won the British title in September.



Becky James’ grandparents were in Minsk at the 2013 Worlds to watch her win the sprint and keirin titles

To qualify for the knockout rounds, riders must complete a 200m flying lap in the fastest time possible. The top 24 are then seeded, with the slowest qualifier paired with the fastest and so on.

The knockout races tend to feature slow, tactical starts, followed by a frenetic finish as two riders race against each other with the first to cross the line winning – the perceived advantage being that the rider coming from behind can draft, using less energy and thus have a better chance of being victorious.

The races become best-of-three contests from the quarter-finals.

GB riders: Jason Kenny is the reigning Olympic champion and won this event in 2011 but no Briton has claimed a medal since he and Hoy took silver and bronze respectively in 2012. Becky James was the last women’s winner, in 2013. Before James, the now retired Victoria Pendleton won six of the previous seven titles.

Scratch race


Ben Swift is Britain’s only winner of the scratch race, male or female – he won in 2012 in Melbourne

The men race over 15km, the women 10km – the simplest of races. There are no intermediate sprints or points to be won. The winner is the first rider to cross the finish line.

GB riders: Riders yet to be announced.



The derny leads the way at the 2013 World Championships – Kenny emerged from its slipstream to win gold

Developed in Japan for gambling purposes, the keirin is a tactical race which starts behind a motorised bike, called a derny, and ends in a mass sprint for the line.

The race is 2km in length, or eight laps, and riders must stay behind the bike, which gradually increases its pace each circuit to about 50km/h until it pulls off with two-and-a-half laps to go.

GB riders: Jason Kenny was world champion in 2013, following a bronze in 2012 – a race in which Sir Chris Hoy won his fourth world title in six years. Becky James won the women’s race in Minsk three years ago and followed that with a bronze in 2014. She is returning from injury in 2016.

Time trial


Russia’s Anastasiia Voinova is encouraged by her coach as she breaks the 500m time trial world record at last year’s Euros

A 1km race for the men and 500m for the women. Riders go from a standing start and it is a one-off race with no qualifying. The quickest time wins.

GB riders: Riders yet to be announced.

Points race


Simon Yates is Britain’s only ever winner in the points race, a feat he achieved in Minsk in 2013

A mass-start race of 40km (160 laps) for men and 25km (100 laps) for women. Points are acquired in sprints, which are held every 10 laps, or by gaining a lap on the field. Tactics vary with some riders sitting at the back to conserve energy and contest the intermediate sprints with five points awarded to each winner, with three, two and one for the next three over the line. Others try to lap the field, which carries a bonus of 20 points.

GB riders: Riders yet to be announced.

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