The Olympic Legacy: How to get involved with track cycling

This is a guest post.

The London 2012 Olympics brought a sporting master class to one of the World’s most vibrant cities. Record numbers of individuals were in attendance, and in every corner of the globe people were transfixed to their television screens. The global nature of the Olympics is one of the elements that make it so uniquely special, and with the development of communications worldwide, increasingly everyone is involved.

Out of all the sports showcased at this year’s Games, there were a number that really stood out. Of course, everyone is always excited to see the World’s fastest man, and right now, in the form of Jamaica’s Usain Bolt, we have one of the most audaciously talented and charismatic champions in Olympic history. He didn’t disappoint, securing a clean sweep of the men’s sprint gold for a second successive Olympics. Great Britain also had the privilege of witnessing some of the most inspiring home-grown athletic performances in generations, with the impregnable Jessica Ennis winning the Heptathlon gold, and Mo Farah getting an incredible 10,000 and 5,000 metre golden double.

One of the sports, which created the biggest buzz of expectation leading up to the Games, however, was cycling. Track, road, course; it didn’t matter. Everyone had the bug. When Mark Cavendish sprinted home for his fourth consecutive Champs Elysees victory in July, for the first time, the UK had something even more special to cheer; the first ever British champion of the Tour de France. The momentum that had slowly been gathering pace in British cycling over the past decade suddenly erupted as Bradley Wiggins took the ultimate prize in cycling. We were all hooked, and with the Olympics promising more excitement, the new stars of British sport were more and more frequently appearing atop two wheels.

Although, with Wiggins fever still in full flow, it was the road race attracting much of the pre-Olympic press coverage, it is often the lightning paced lure of the track that really steals the show. The Olympics offers a unique environment for traditional minority sports to take some of the limelight, and fast paced, adrenaline fuelled, calamity ridden track cycling just about fits the bill to perfection. The British public took to the streets en masse to witness a disappointing road race, blighted by suggestions that other teams didn’t want the Brits to do well, and then celebrated as home grown hero, and recent Tour de France victor, Bradley Wiggins, brought home gold in the time trial. It wasn’t until the Velodrome opened up its doors, however, that the cycling buzz really began to bubble, and it’s easy to see why.

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Track Cycling Events

There were five track cycling medals available at the London Olympics, for both male and female competitors, ten in all; the Keirin, Sprint, Omnium, Team Pursuit, and Team Sprint. For those of you not so well versed in the different track cycling disciplines, here is a brief introduction into each.

The Keirin

The Keirin is often the most exciting and accident filled track cycling event. It is fundamentally a sprint race but with between six to eight competitors competing side by side on the track. The racers follow behind a ‘derny’ or pacemaker for the first few laps, gradually increasing the speed, before they are let loose to battle it out to the finish.

Sprint

The Sprint is pretty self-explanatory; simply it is a head to head race to the finish line. It is not always how you would imagine a sprint race, however, with both races usually biding their time before choosing an opportune moment to attack. It plays out like a chess game, with a lightning paced climax.

Omnium

The Omnium is a multiple race event, which tests the cyclists at a variety of distances and disciplines. The five races are; 200m flying time trial, 5km scratch race, 3km individual pursuit, 15km points race and 1km time trial. This is the heptathlon or decathlon of the track cycling world.

Team Pursuit

The Team Pursuit involves four riders over four km in the men’s event and three of three km in the women’s. The rival teams start at opposite sides of the track and then chase each other. The victors being the team to finish first or indeed the team that manages to catch the other. Each team member follows closely behind the other, minimising drag, and consecutively takes turns to lead the pack; darting up the steep track to switch in what appears to be a life threatening manoeuvre.

Team Sprint

The Team Sprint is similar to the Team Pursuit, but over a much shorter distance of three laps and two laps for men’s and women’s events, and with three and two riders respectively. One rider leads the team out and the pulls away after the first lap is complete, leaving the others to continue. After the second lap, in the men’s event, the second rider then also pulls away leaving the third and final rider to finish alone. Similarly to the Team Pursuit, two teams race together, starting at opposite sides of the track.

You are inspired and want to get involved?

It’s not surprising that you are inspired after Team GBs exquisite track cycling performance at the LondonGames, where they picked up nearly a third of the total medals up for grabs, with nine medals, including seven golds. Part of the secret of this success comes in the form of government funding, with £26 million pounds spent on the Olympic effort, second only to Rowing., and with such great success and a raised profile, this is set to continue.

Where can I start?

There are two major schemes in the UK focused on getting young people into cycling. They are ‘Go Ride’ and ‘Sky Ride’.

Go Ride

Go Ride is a British Cycling initiative aimed at getting young people involved in the sport. There are ‘Go Ride’ clubs dotted all across the British Isles, and if you are under 16 you can apply to be a part of the ‘Go Ride Games’ – an Olympic style event looking to inspire youngsters to follow in the footsteps, or rather track marks, of their heroes.

Go Ride is available at numerous clubs and schools, and can offer the perfect introduction into a career in cycling. You can visit the Go Ride website.

Sky Ride

If you are looking to get you or your children involved in cycling in a more casual fashion, Sky Ride presents you with the perfect opportunities. With a fantastic website, where you can browse cycling routes in your area, locate organised group rides, or simply find yourself some riding partners, it really is a great resource for budding cyclists.

You never know; what starts as some fun family leisure time may turn into a gold medal winning Olympic performance of the future. Visit Go Sky Rider.

This seems nice, but I want to be a champion!

If you really want to get stuck in at the deep end, and believe you possess the fitness, talent, hunger, and enthusiasm for competitive cycling, then there are a number of Olympic Cycling talent programmes for you to get involved in.

Olympic Talent Team Programme

The Talent Team Programme is predominantly for gifted cyclists aged 13 to 17, and is geared towards providing the first step towards Olympics success. The coaching is done regionally, and is conducted by some of the best cycling coaches in the world, truly allowing you to improve your technique, fitness, and strength, and push on to Olympic success.

Cyclists are selected by talent spotters at regional and national competitions and through the ‘Go Ride’ scheme mentioned earlier. If you want to partake in this programme, it is really key that you get out there, and get spotted.

Further Steps to the Podium

There are three further talent programmes after this initial level; Olympic Development Programme, Olympic Academy Programme, and Olympic Podium Programme. These are all very much steps up the ladder, and it is rare to be able to jump straight into a higher level, unless you are an exceptionally gifted slightly older rider.

Fundamentally if you want to be a champion, much of the early work needs to be done off your own back. Remember Bradley Wiggins didn’t just step out of his room into the Olympic Velodrome. There is a long and arduous journey behind every Olympic cycling success story.

By being proactive, and getting involved, first at a regional level through ‘Go Ride’, ‘Sky Ride’, schools, or clubs, with determination, focus, commitment, and ability you can then progress up the steps of the ladder, and who knows? Maybe one day you will be standing on top of the Olympic Podium with a gold medal around your neck.

GET ON YOUR BIKE from bikesnbits AND RIDE!

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

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