Get involved: CYCLING - TRACK

Four years ago in Beijing, the velodrome was paved with gold for Great Britain's cyclists - and expectations will be high for a repeat performance in London.

Riders such as Victoria Pendleton and Sir Chris Hoy have emerged as household names on the back of their exploits charging around the banked oval track at speeds approaching 50mph.

A lot has changed in the interim, with new restraints being imposed on the use of technology, including the banning of the plasticised skinsuits worn so successfully by Team GB.

Each nation has been limited to one participant in individual events - Great Britain multi-medalled in four of the 10 events in Beijing - and five of the 10 disciplines on show have been changed to give parity to the men and women competing.

The cyclists at the velodrome in the Olympic Park will now compete in the sprint, team sprint, keirin (where riders follow a motorcycle and build up to a sprint finish), team pursuit and omnium (a six-discipline event which is like the decathlon in athletics).

Why is it good for you?

Track racing is an exciting and physically demanding sport, with an hour-long session likely to burn approximately 782 calories per hour.

The strain of keeping the bike in motion at speed increases the heart rate, lowers blood pressure and improves endurance.

As the thigh, calf and hip muscles are in constant use, it is an effective way to help build lower-body strength.

Unlike other high-energy sports, bike riding has a much lower risk of injury as there is none of the physical contact between athletes found in football or rugby, while it is much gentler on the knee and ankle joints than long-distance running.

Biking does not only have to be done as a sport. A study by the International Bicycle Fund found commuters who begin to ride their bicycles to and from work instead of driving lose an average of 13 pounds during their first year of biking.

As training for track racing is often team-based pursuit, it is an excellent way to develop communication skills and learn to work effectively with other people.

Clubs also offer a variety of social events beyond just riding.

Get involved

Approximately two million people in Britain cycle at least once a week, and there are more than 80,000 members of cycling clubs.external-link

Before taking to the course, it is essential to wear safety equipment such as a helmet, cycling gloves and elbow and knee pads. If you are riding on public roads, it is important to wear high visibility gear.

It is further recommended that a long sleeved top be worn for added protection.

Some clubs allow members to hire bikes and helmets. A decent starter track bike costs around £300, and it is important to buy a track bike as mountain, road and hybrid BMX bikes are ill-suited to ride on velodrome circuits.

Training days and taster schemes are run for people of all ages and abilitiesexternal-link throughout the year. Visit the British Cycling,external-linkCycling Ireland,external-linkScottish Cyclingexternal-link and Welsh Cyclingexternal-link websites for more information.

For regional and national events, membership of British Cyclingexternal-link or Cycling Irelandexternal-link is required. There are a number of bands related to how regularly you wish to compete.

Small fees are often required to take part in the 3,000+ cycling meets held annually throughout the country.

For parents looking to get their children started in competitive racing, British Cycling are running a number of events for under-16s throughout the United Kingdom this year. Visit the 'Go-Ride Racing'external-link website for more details.

Sky Rideexternal-link are offering free cycling events across the country throughout the summer. Their website also contains information about where you can find your nearest cycling route.

Fun, free and informal bike rides just for women are also available through Sky Ride's Breeze scheme.external-link

Want to get involved with sport in your local community? Why not Join In ?

'Join In Local Sport'external-link aims to get as many people as possible to turn up and take part in activities at their local sports facilities on 18/19 August, 2012 - the first weekend between the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The aim of the initiative is for every sports club and community group in the UK to put on a special event in a bid to encourage more people to get involved as members, supporters or volunteers.

More than 4,000 local sports clubs will be opening their doors to host events and show people just how they can get involved.

As well as tips on playing sport there will be information on coaching, supporting and how to help out.

Find an eventexternal-link near you.

The competition format at London 2012

  • From Thursday 2 August to Tuesday 7 August, 188 athletes (104 men, 84 women) will compete at the Velodrome in the Olympic Park.
  • Both team events will feature 10 nations in both the men's and women's competitions. Men's teams have four riders in the pursuit and three in the sprint; women's teams have three riders in the pursuit and two in the sprint.
  • The team sprint and team pursuit events both feature a qualifying round and a competition round before the medal races.
  • In the individual sprint, the 18 riders compete in a seeding event before entering a knockout competition, which concludes with the winners of the two semi-finals racing to decide the gold medal and the losers of the two semi-finals racing to decide the bronze medal.
  • In the keirin, there will be three heats of six riders in which the first two in each qualify for the semi-finals. For those who fail to qualify, there will be two repechages, from which the first three riders in each repechage will reach the semi-final.
  • The first three riders in each of the semi-finals will reach the final, in which the first athlete to cross the finish line wins the gold medal and so on.
  • The omnium, which is held over two days, features six separate disciplines: flying lap, points race, elimination race, individual pursuit, scratch race and time trial.
  • There will be 18 riders in both the men's and women's competition. The winner of each discipline scores one point, the second-placed rider two points, and so on, with the gold medal winner being the rider with the fewest points after the six events.

More on the London 2012 websiteexternal-link

The rules at London 2012

In both team events, the teams start on opposing sides of the track and, in case of a tie, the team with the fastest time over the last lap (or a previous lap if the last lap time is the same) will be declared the winner.

In the team pursuit, the winner is whichever team catches the other team, or records the fastest time over the full distance of the race.

The men's race takes place over 4km and the women's race takes place over 3km.

In the team sprint, each rider in a team must lead for a lap. The first rider leads for the first lap, then leaves the track, allowing the second-placed rider to lead.

In the men's race, this happens again in the third lap. At the end of the race, just one rider from each team is left on the track.

In the individual sprint, two riders go head-to-head over three laps with the fastest progressing to the next round.

The competition starts with a 200m flying start (a time trial beginning with 2½ build-up laps), which establishes the seeding for the event.

Thereafter, riders go head-to-head in a knockout format. Up to the quarter-finals, losing riders get another chance to progress through a repechage.

From the quarter-finals onwards, races are the best-of-three.

The keirin is an eight-lap event, in which riders follow a moped which gradually increases in speed from 30kph to 50kph for the men and 25kph to 45kph for the women, which it reaches with four laps of the track to go. The moped leaves the track with 2½ laps to go, leaving the riders to battle it out over a sprint finish.

The flying lap event in the omnium sees the athletes steadily gain pace for 2½ laps before the final 250m lap is timed. In the points race, final placings are decided according to accumulated points won by riders during mid-race sprints.

In the elimination race, sprints are held on every other lap and the last sprinter to cross the finishing line is eliminated until one rider remains.

In the scratch race a straight race is held over 15km for men, and 10km for women. In the time trial, two riders compete against each to register the fastest time over over 1km for the men and 500m for the women.

In all events, times are measured to 1/1,000th of a second.

More on the UCI websiteexternal-link

Ones to watch

Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton are the king and queen of British track cycling, while Laura Trott seems destined to be one of the faces of these Games.

Australian darling - and Pendleton's arch-rival - Anna Meares and French powerhouse Gregory Bauge will be hard to beat in the sprints.

Jack Bobridge will spearhead Australia's men's team pursuit team, who are still smarting from their defeat to GB at the World Championships earlier this year.


Track cycling was first established in Great Britain in the 1870s when wooden indoor tracks, consisting of two straights and slightly banked turns, were laid.

The sport proved a popular attraction and early races at venues in Birmingham, Sheffield, Liverpool, Manchester and London attracted crowds of up to 2,000 people.

Track cycling events have been organised at all the editions of the Olympics since 1896, with the only exception being the 1912 Games in Stockholm, when only the road race was staged.

Between 1924 and 1992, the range of events at the Olympics were usually a sprint, time trial over one kilometre, tandem and team pursuit. The individual pursuit was added in the 1964 Olympic in Tokyo, and the tandem was dropped after the 1972 Games in Munich.

Women first competed in a sprint track event in 1988, and the individual pursuit was added in Barcelona four years later.

In February 2011, the Velodrome became the first competition venue in the Olympic Park to be completed.

More on the IOC websiteexternal-link