A lot of people learn to ride a bike at some point in their childhood. Some of you might be in that process now! It’s good to know that learning to ride a bike isn’t just an added method of transport to school, but can be a method of winning various titles all over the world. In the Olympics, cycling is incorporated in many different ways such as BMX riding and road racing; however we’re going to concentrate on the track cycling today.
Track cycling takes place inside and so is an all-year-round sport. Special arenas called velodromes are made specifically for the events, just like the one you would have seen on the TV in the summer. A velodrome is a cycling track made of two straights and steeply banked bends in between, therefore it makes an oval shape. The steep sides of the velodrome are key in the races as they allow competitors to gain ground on the outside and to use to edges to gain momentum and speed.
A nifty fact about track cycling is that when it first appeared in 1870 it was an instant success with arena managers as, because the arena was indoors, spectators could be charged on the door, so the manager was sure to get his money! Very little has changed with the sport over the years, except the actual bicycles. As the years have gone on and the cyclists have become more competitive, more time, money and effort has been put into making the bicycles more aerodynamic. This means that the bikes can cut through the air more quickly and with less effect on the cyclist.
Track cycling as a whole can be split into two sections: sprint events and endurance events. Most riders will only compete in one style of event and will train themselves to be the best that they can at that one section. This is because the two styles of races require very different muscles to be good and, if you want to compete at a high level, it’s better to just focus on the needed areas. Sprint races are, unsurprisingly, the faster races with only around 8 to 10 laps of the arena. These races focus heavily on tactics to beat the opponent. Endurance races on the other hand can be anything between 12 to 200 laps of the velodrome, depending on the event, and test your power to withstand the stress on your muscles, mind, and breathing system over a set length of time or distance.
Track cycling has been in every modern Olympic Games, minus the 1912 Games, and has grabbed itself a huge following in Europe, Japan, the USA, and Australia! Another little fact about the event – women were only allowed to compete in track cycling from the 1988 Games, and were only granted the same number of events in the 2012 Games! Now, we have the likes of Victoria Pendleton achieving cycling titles left, right and centre. Haven’t things changed?
If you want to take your cycling to another level, why not look into track cycling a little more? Maybe YOU could be the next big thing.