How to watch the Olympic Track Cycling Omnium – a beginner’s guide

In its first Olympic year, a rundown of the six events that make up cycling's version of the heptathlon, plus how the scoring works and who's in contention

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The Omnium is track cycling’s multi-discipline event, similar to a heptathlon for cyclists, and is making its Olympic debut in London.

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Riders will compete over six different events and their placing in each event will be their points score: one point for first place, two for second and so on. At the end of the six events, the winner is the rider with the lowest overall score.

Team GB’s Ed Clancy and Laura Trott have both been Omnium World Champions, and will be entering the event on a high: Clancy has already won a gold medal in the Team Pursuit, and Trott has set a World Record in the women’s Team Pursuit.

The Omnium takes place over two days and starts with a flying lap, followed by a points race and an elimination race. The following day will see them compete in a scratch race, an individual pursuit and a kilometre time trial. Both Team GB riders excel at the individual events which take place against the clock, and will use them to gain advantages that they can defend in the melee of the mass start races.

The Flying Lap

The flying lap will see riders given two-and-a-half laps to wind themselves up to their top speed in time for the third lap, on which they’re timed.

The Points Race

The points race sees the riders covering a distance of 30km on the track (20km for the women’s event). Every ten laps a bell is rung, and the riders sprint for the line in an attempt to score points for crossing the line first. Some riders will attempt to save their strength and jostle for position in between the bell laps, while others will try to score a massive 20 point bonus for lapping the field.

The Elimination Race

Formerly known as “Devil Take The Hindmost”, the Elimination race sees the last rider in the field eliminated after every second lap, and is a strong event for GB’s Laura Trott. Riders at the front will try to maintain a steady pace so they can’t be overhauled, while riders at the rear will fight a desperate battle not to be in last place on the vital laps. This can cause the race to accordion wildly, and things can get risky as the riders spread over the back of the field suddenly become densely packed and attempt to overtake each other.

The Scratch Race

The scratch race is the equivalent of the bike races you’ll remember from when you were a kid. No points, stopwatches or eliminations, just a race over 16 or 10 kilometres for the men and women respectively. Riders with a short, sharp turn of speed will hope to keep the race in one piece for a bunch sprint, while endurance riders will attempt to escape off the front of the pack, posing a dilemma for the riders behind. A rider who escapes and is caught won’t have the energy to try again, but a rider who chases an escapee must be careful not to exhaust himself before the final sprint.

The Individual Pursuit

As in the Team Pursuit, the Individual Pursuit sees riders starting on opposite sides of the track and attempting to chase each other down. You’ll be able to see both sides of the track in splitscreen on your TV. A particularly dominant rider will cross the line visibly before his opponent does, which means he’s closing the distance. More closely-matched riders will be distinguishable only by the split times on each lap.

The Time Trial

Finally there’s the Kilo or One Kilometre Time Trial, in which each rider individually sets his fastest time they can for a kilometre. It’s a race of four laps against the clock and, like the flying lap and pursuit, it’s where we expect Ed Clancy to do well.

The favourites

Watch out for Team GB’s Clancy and Trott. Other strong contenders for the Omnium include Australia’s Glenn O’Shea and Annette Edmondson, Canada’s Zachary Bell and Tara Whitten, and USA’s Sarah Hammer.

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The Omnium unfolds throughout the day on BBC1 and BBC Olympics 6 and 7, with the final events from 4:45pm