Thursday 30 August – Sunday 2 September 2012
Olympic Park – Velodrome
Number of competitors
225: 155 men and 70 women across Road and Track
Each country is limited to 14 men and seven women across both disciplines.
B – tandem
H1–H4 – athletes use a handcycle (Road only)
T1–T2 – athletes use a tricycle (Road only)
C1–C5 – athletes use a bicycle, often with modifications
The lower the athlete’s class number, the greater the impact of impairment on their ability to compete.
Read more about Paralympic Track Cycling classification
Number of medal events
18: men’s and women’s Individual Pursuit and 1km/500m Time Trial, men’s Individual Sprint, and Team Sprint across a variety of classifications.
Field of play
The track at the Velodrome is a 250m oval, banked from 12 degrees at its shallowest point to 42 degrees at its steepest.
History of Track Cycling at the Paralympics
The first Track Cycling races at the Paralympic Games took place at the Atlanta 1996 Games. At London 2012 the programme features more medal events than at any previous Paralympic Games.
There are 18 Paralympic Track Cycling events (10 for men, seven for women and one mixed event) testing speed, endurance and teamwork.
There are four types of cycles used in Paralympic Cycling:
– A tandem is used by athletes with visual impairment; the athlete sits on the back of the tandem with a sighted pilot at the front.
– A handcycle, as the name suggests, has pedals operated by hand. It has two wheels at the back and one at the front.
– A tricycle is normally used by athletes whose balance would make them unable to race on a two-wheeled bicycle.
– A bicycle is used by all other athletes, often with modifications.
Track Cycling sees only bicycles and tandems used whereas all four are on show for Road Cycling.
For a complete set of rules, please refer to the website of the International Cycling Union (UCI), governing body for the sport.
The format differs for each event – Pursuit, Sprint (Team and Individual), Time Trial.
The Sprint is a race between two riders at a time over three laps of the track. The two riders start side by side and on the starting signal set off, usually very slowly, before building up to a full-on sprint finish. It is an extremely tactical event: riders usually do not want to be in the front for the full race, which is why they may slow down and use the full width of the track.
The men’s Sprint event starts with a 200m time trial to determine the draw for the 16 riders. From then on the competition is a knockout, going to quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final, which are all the best of three heats.
The Team Sprint starts with a qualifying round with the best two teams going forward to the final. The mixed Team Sprint event (classes C1–5) comprising men and women will be contested by teams of three riders. The two fastest teams in the qualifying round will race for the gold medal, and the teams with the third and fourth fastest times will race for the bronze medal.
In the Pursuit, two opposing riders start on either side of the track. The winner is the rider who either catches the other, or records the fastest time over the full distance.
The men’s Pursuit is four kilometres long; the women’s event is three kilometres.
The Pursuit starts with a qualifying round, At the end of the qualification phase, the two riders with the fastest times will race for the gold medal, and the riders with the third and fourth fastest times will race for the bronze medal.
The Time Trial is a straightforward race – 1km for men, 500m for women. Athletes take to the track alone and the fastest time wins the gold medal.
For a complete set of rules, please refer to the international federation (UCI).
A host of officials (or commissaires) are needed for the Olympic Track Cycling, including start and finish judges, referees, timekeepers and scorers.
Keys to success
Each event needs different skills, but track cyclists need to be strong and powerful as well as extremely tactically aware, as in many events pacing and timing can make all the difference.
Breaking the rules
The different events have different rules and regulations, but riders can be disqualified for offences such as slowing down for too long in the Sprint or ignoring the red flag (that a rider is about to be caught) in the Pursuit.
The best place to find out more about Cycling is to check the websites for the international federation (UCI) and your National Olympic Committee.