Track Racing: A Brief Introduction to an Olympic Sport
discovered track racing, an Olympic sport closely followed in Europe,
this past June. I am fortunate enough to live only a couple hours away
from a Velodrome, a racing track used for the sport.
racing was once as popular in the United States as it is in Europe
today. In fact, in the 1920s, it was one of the most popular spectator
sports. However, track racing lost its popularity in the 30s and 40s,
and almost all of the indoor and outdoor tracks were destroyed. During
the cycling boom of the 1970s, the U.S. could only claim nine
world-class tracks. Velodromes are very slowly being built again, but
there are still very few in the country.
I was scared to death the first time I tried it because a track bike is
very different than a road bike, my experience as a Spinning instructor
allowed me to quickly adapt and I fell in love with the sport.
road riding, there is no coasting and no sudden stopping in track
racing because track bikes are fixed-geared and have no brakes. My
years of teaching Spinning classes helped me adjust to the fixed-wheel
of the track bike, which requires constant application of force on the
pedals. I found that I could easily turn out high cadences on the
track, and in good form.
differences between track and road bikes include the shape of the fork
blades, the frame geometry and tire clearance. Fork blades on track
bikes are oval, rather than round, which makes them stiffer and more
rigid laterally. Since tracks do not have bumps or pot holes, they have
more upright frame angles than road bikes. Track bikes also have a very
tight tire clearance because there is no reason to use anything but the
narrowest tires on a track.
resemble something between your high school running track and a NASCAR
track, and are very diverse in construction. They can be found indoors
or outdoors, can be made of wood, concrete, asphalt or cement, and can
range in distance from 250 to 333 meters.
are many different types of track races, each with its own set of
rules. Some popular types include match sprint, Olympic sprint,
individual pursuit, team pursuit and points race.
began to compete in pursuit events, which are as close to a time trial
as it gets on the track. The women’s 3k pursuit is considered an
endurance event because many of the sprints last between 10 and 30
seconds. There are also mass-start races, which resemble criteriums,
except they are much shorter in duration and the intensity is much
is a very limited introduction to track racing, but I would encourage
you to try it if you live near a Velodrome, and to check out the
provided resources for more information.
Hottman, a licensed attorney, is a STAR 3 instructor and has been
teaching since 2000. She is the founder and director of a multi-state
women-only cycling and triathlon team called Defined Fitness Training,
LLC. Additionally, Megan races as a CAT II road cyclists throughout the
race season in CO, and she is the 2007 Colorado Time Trial Champion in
the women’s pro/1/2 category.