What are the Omnium and Keirin at Tokyo Olympics? Events, rules and the meaning of repechage
One of the Olympics’ best-loved and most prominent sports, track cycling has featured at every modern Olympic Games other than Stockhom 1912, with women’s events on the track added in 1988.
Great Britain took six golds at the velodrome at Rio 2016 and with a slightly expanded schedule this time around, team captains Jason and Laura Kenny and the rest of the Team GB squad picked will be looking to again feature heavily on the podium.
Know your Keirin from your Madison? Confused about how the Omnium actually works? Here’s a handy jargon buster and guide to help you through some of the more unique elements of track cycling:
What is a velodrome?
A velodrome is an arena for track cycling consisting of two straights and two 180-degree circular bends First constructed during the 19th century, sizes used to vary, but since 1990 most major events in the sport are held on 250 metre tracks.
All of the track cycling will be held at the Izu Velodrome in Shizuoka at Tokyo 2020.
What is the Omnium?
Great Britain’s Laura Kenny is the defending female champion of the Omnium.
The competition has been streamlined since the last Olympics, and is now held over one day and four events – down from the two-day, six event competition in Rio de Janeiro.
The four separate bunch events are: the scratch race, the tempo race, the elimination race and the points race.
Riders accumulate points in the first three events based on a points scale, which are then carried in to the points race. During the course of this race riders may lose or gain points from their total, and the winner is the rider with the most points at the end of the fourth event, which is 25km for men and 20km for women.
The scratch race is a traditional first across the line race held over 10km for men and 7.5km for women, while the tempo race covers the same distance, but awards a point to the first rider crossing the line on each lap (20 points can also be earned by lapping the field).
The elimination race is a bunch race in which the last rider to cross the line every two laps is eliminated.
Italy’s Elia Viviani took gold in the men’s Omnium at Rio 2016, while Kenny will be looking to take a third successive Omnium Olympic title since the event’s introduction into the women’s track cycling program.
France’s Benjamin Thomas and Yumi Kajihara of Japan are the respective world champins heading to Tokyo.
What is the Keirin?
An event of great tradition and particular significance in Japan, the Keirin has a peculiar look.
In Tokyo, six riders will begin the race behind a motorized device to progressively reach a specific speed of 50 kilometres per hour, before exiting the track with three laps to go – slightly longer than at the last Olympics, when the final sprint covered two and a half laps.
The cyclists will sprint in a succession of knockout rounds held over two days at the Izu Velodrome. Riders knocked out in the first round of heats do get a second opportunity via a repechage system.
The repechages see riders effectively get a second chance at qualification with the top two in each heat making it through to join those already qualified.
Jason Kenny succeeded former Great Britain teammate and two-time Olympic Keirin champion Chris Hoy by taking one of his three golds from Rio 2016 in the event. Elis Ligtlee (Netherlands) is the defending female champion.
What is the Madison?
Returning to the Olympics after not being held at either London 2012 or Rio 2016, Madison is a team event for two riders. It is a relay race held over 50km for men and 30km for women, with a succession of intermediate sprints every 10 laps.
The two team members alternate between racing and resting, with the rider not racing remaining on the track before being thrown back into the action via a hand sling from their team mate.
Points are awarded at each intermediate sprint, while any team that gains a lap on the main bunch earns an extra 20 points; any team lapped has 20 points deducted.
The final sprint after the full distance is covered is worth double points – starting from a maximum of 10.
A female competition will be held in the Madison for the first time at Tokyo 2020, with Laura Kenny adding the event to her schedule as she bids to become Great Britain’s most successful female Olympian.
The two-time World Championship winning Dutch pairing of Kirsten Wild and Amy Pieters are likely to be Kenny and partner Katie Archibald’s toughest opposition.
Fresh from guiding Mark Cavendish to a succession of stunning stage wins at the Tour de France, Denmark’s Michael Morkov will switch back to the track as he looks to cap a spectacular career with a long-awaited Olympics gold medal.
Morkov is a two-time world champion in the discipline, most recently alongside Lasse Norman Hansen.