Olympic Track Cycling Explainer: Omnium


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Final: August 5th (men), August 8th (women)

How it works: The Omnium is a points-based competition that includes four different group races (everyone starts together), which award all points for a final ranking of drivers. The four group races are: Scratch Race, Tempo Race, Elimination Race and Points Race.

The Omnium starts with a simple scratch race (10 km for men, 7.5 km for women) in which the first driver wins. Next up is a speed race (equal distances) where after four laps the drivers sprint for points every lap and a driver who laps the field gets 20 points and drivers who are dropped off the field and lapped lose 20 points.

The third race is the Elimination Race, in which sprints take place every two laps and after each sprint the last driver to cross the line is eliminated. The race goes on until there is only one driver left.

The last event is the points race (25 km men, 20 km women). Every 10 laps the first four drivers are awarded points across the line (5, 3, 2 and 1 points), which are doubled for the final sprint. Lapping the field earns a driver 20 points and teams that are lapped lose 20 points.

After these four events, the points collected by the drivers crown the medal winners.

What to look out for: You could study the Omnium for years and still be upset by this complex event as the drivers use different strategies at each event to get the most total points. At the Olympics, all four events take place on one day, so the top riders have to have a mix of sprint strength and endurance. Often it is a street sprinter who distinguishes himself at this event through the mixture of strategy, perseverance and clout. Watch out for a driver who jumps to an early win and then drives conservatively through the remaining events. In the scratch and points races, the best sprinters will try to hold the field together, while the more persevering drivers pull away and lap the field. In the Elimination and Tempo races, the drivers simply drive by feel and then unleash their sprints after trying to save energy in the intermediate laps.

Favorite men: Benjamin Thomas (France), Campbell Stewart (New Zealand) Jan-Willem van Schip (Netherlands), Matthew Walls (Great Britain)

Favorite women: Letizia Paternoster (Italy), Yumi Kajihara (Japan), Kristen Wild (Netherlands), Annette Edmondson (Australia)

North Americans: Jennifer Valente (USA), Alison Beveridge (Canada), Gavin Hoover (USA)

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