Sprint (cycling)

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The sprint or match sprint is a track cycling event involving between 2 and 4 riders, though they are usually run as a one-on-one match race between opponents who, unlike in the individual pursuit, start next to each other.


Racing style

Depending on the size of the velodrome, this event can be from 600 m to 1000 m. Unlike the sprints in athletics, these events do not usually start with riders sprinting from the starting line and they are not confined to lanes. The early parts of each race will often be highly tactical with riders pedaling slowly, as they carefully jockey for position, often trying to force their opponents up high on the track in an attempt to get their rivals to make the first move. Some even bring their bicycles to a complete stop, balanced upright with both feet still on the pedals (a track stand), in an attempt to make the other rider take the lead. The reason for this apparently strange behavior, as in many track cycling events, is both aerodynamics and tactics.

When racing at high speed, the rider who manages to stay just behind their opponent can slipstream, expending less effort. By riding behind the 'lead out' rider, the second rider reduces the aerodynamic drag they feel. Just before the finish, the trailing rider pulls out of the slipstream, and using their fresher legs may be able to overtake their opponent before the line. To prevent this, the leading rider may choose to accelerate quickly before the last lap, hoping to catch his opponent off guard and establish a large enough gap to negate the aerodynamic effect or to keep the speed high enough to prevent his opponent from completing a pass.

During the race, the 'lead out' rider may choose to hug the measurement line on the inside of the track, giving him the shortest path around the track, or he may choose to hug the sprinter's line, a red line 85 cm up track, to force his opponent to come higher over the top of him. The sprinter's line defines the sprinter's lane; once the sprint is initiated, riders may not drop into the sprinters lane or cross out of the lane unless they have a clear lead over their opponent.

Rules and Qualifying/Race Format

As defined by UCI rules, the first round of competition used to qualify for the sprint competition is the flying 200 m time trial. In this round each rider completes 2 to 3 warm up laps and then completes the final 200 m, which is usually just under a lap. The number of riders that qualify for the sprint rounds depends on the competition; in World Cup competitions, 16 riders will advance and in a World Championships, 24 riders will advance. The top riders are seeded in the following rounds, meaning the fastest qualifier will face the slowest qualifier and so on. Knock out rounds then proceed, initially on a one race basis and then on a best-of three-race format from the quarter-final stage. Riders defeated in the earlier rounds may get a chance to continue in the competition through the repechage races.

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