Track cycling has a long history in the Olympics dating back to the first modern Games of Athens 1896. It has appeared at every edition of the Games, with the exception of Stockholm 1912.
There are two main facets to track cycling: sprinting and endurance, with little cross-over between them. Road cyclists are also suited to endurance track cycling, with a number of successful cross-over athletes.
Here are the top five things you should know about track cycling at the Olympics.
Top Olympic track cyclists at Tokyo 2020
The traditional track cycling rivalry is between Great Britain and Australia, although cyclists from Russia, Germany, the Netherlands, and China have also proven to be strong at recent Games.
British cyclists tend to dominate in the velodrome. Look for stars like married couple Jason Kenny and Laura Kenny to shine, while their endurance teams will hope to win a fourth straight gold medal in the men’s team pursuit and third straight in the women’s.
Expect Malaysia’s track cycling hero Azizulhasni Awang to be among the mix in the men’s keirin with Kenny, while Netherlands and Denmark will hope to challenge the British in the team pursuit.
On the women’s side, Team USA – with Chloé Dygert, if she doubles up with riding on the road – are perhaps the biggest threat to Britain in the team pursuit. The Americans were the 2020 world champions, having beaten the Brits in the final and won silver in Rio.
The ROC women's team sprint are also to be watched.
Olympic track cycling schedule at Tokyo 2020
The competition will take place from 2 to 8 August 2021, with one session per day in the afternoon except on the last day of the competition, when it takes place in the morning before the evening’s Closing Ceremony.
Mon 2 August 15:30 - 18:30
- Women's Team Sprint Qualifying
- Women's Team Pursuit Qualifying
- Women's Team Sprint First round
- Men's Team Pursuit Qualifying
- Women's Team Sprint Finals
- Women's Team Sprint Victory Ceremony
Tue 3 August 15:30 - 18:10
- Women's Team Pursuit First round
- Men's Team Sprint Qualifying
- Men's Team Pursuit First round
- Men's Team Sprint First round
- Women's Team Pursuit Finals
- Men's Team Sprint Finals
- Women's Team Pursuit Victory Ceremony
- Men's Team Sprint Victory Ceremony
Wed 4 August 15:30 - 19:00
- Men's Sprint Qualifying
- Women's Keirin First round
- Men's Sprint 1/32 Finals
- Women's Keirin Repechages
- Men's Sprint 1/32 Finals Repechages
- Men's Team Pursuit Finals
- Men's Sprint 1/16 Finals
- Men's Team Pursuit Victory Ceremony
- Men's Sprint 1/16 Finals Repechages
Thu 5 August 15:30 - 18:50
- Men's Omnium Scratch Race 1/4
- Men's Sprint 1/8 Finals
- Women's Keirin Quarterfinals
- Men's Sprint 1/8 Finals Repechages
- Men's Omnium Tempo Race 2/4
- Men's Sprint Quarterfinals
- Women's Keirin Semifinals
- Men's Omnium Elimination Race 3/4
- Women's Keirin Final 7-12
- Women's Keirin Final 1-6
- Men's Omnium Points Race 4/4
- Men's Sprint Race for 5th-8th Places
- Women's Keirin Victory Ceremony
- Men's Omnium Victory Ceremony
Fri 6 August 15:30 - 19:15
- Women's Sprint Qualifying
- Men's Sprint Semifinals
- Women's Sprint 1/32 Finals
- Women's Sprint 1/32 Finals Repechages
- Women's Madison Final
- Men's Sprint Finals
- Women's Sprint 1/16 Finals
- Women's Madison Victory Ceremony
- Women's Sprint 1/16 Finals Repechages
- Men's Sprint Victory Ceremony
Sat 7 August 15:30 - 18:25
- Women's Sprint 1/8 Finals
- Men's Keirin First Round
- Women's Sprint 1/8 Finals Repechages
- Men's Keirin Repechages
- Women's Sprint Quarterfinals
- Men's Madison Final
- Men's Madison Victory Ceremony
Sun 8 August 10:00 - 13:15
- Women's Omnium Scratch Race 1/4
- Women's Sprint Semifinals
- Men's Keirin Quarterfinals
- Women's Omnium Tempo Race 2/4
- Women's Sprint Race for 5th-8th Places
- Men's Keirin Semifinals
- Women's Sprint Finals
- Women's Omnium Elimination Race 3/4
- Men's Keirin Final 7-12
- Men's Keirin Final 1-6
- Men's Keirin Victory Ceremony
- Women's Omnium Points Race 4/4
- Women's Sprint Victory Ceremony
- Women's Omnium Victory Ceremony
Olympic track cycling venue at Tokyo 2020
Track cycling is one of the events taking place outside of the Japanese capital. The Izu Velodrome, located in Shizuoka Prefecture, located around 100 km south-east of Tokyo, will host the events. It has a 250m wooden track, as required by UCI standards.
Olympic track cycling competition format at Tokyo 2020
Most events will take place in a heat format, with multiple rounds leading up to a medal race.
The omnium is a four-race event, with athletes receiving points for their finishing positions in the first three races (scratch race, tempo race, and elimination race) before ending with the points race, with the points gained in the last race added to the total.
There will also be a return to the Olympic programme for the madison two-person race, with a women’s race making its debut. The men’s madison was last contested at Beijing 2008.
Olympic track cycling history
First introduced at Athens 1896 at the first modern Olympics, the discipline has taken place at every Games since except in 1912.
While Germany, France, and Italy used to dominate the top step of track cycling podiums at the Olympic Games, there has been a sea change since the Athens 2004 Games, when Britain and Australia really came to the fore.
Since Beijing 2008, Great Britain have won 20 of the 30 gold medals on offer in the velodrome – an impressive success rate. Chris Hoy and Jason Kenny are the most successful track cycling medallists in Olympic history, each winning six golds and a silver; Bradley Wiggins has four golds, one silver and two bronzes (in addition to one road gold).
Australia’s Anna Meares has won the most medals among women in the velodrome, with two golds, one silver and three bronzes.