The Omnium is track cycling’s multi-discipline event, similar to a heptathlon for cyclists. It takes place over two days and starts with a scratch race, followed by an individual pursuit and an elimination race. The following day will see riders compete in a time trial, a flying lap and the points race.
The mixture of sprint and endurance events means that rider’s positions in the standings can vary wildly as each event plays to different strengths.The order of events and point scoring system has been simplified since London 2012 – riders now accrue points over the course of the first five events with 40 points for first place, 38 for second, and so on down to 21st place and below, which earns a single point. The accumulated score is then used as a sort of head start in the final event, the Points Race, where riders will score extra points in a sprint every ten laps, or for lapping the field.
Team GB’s Laura Trott is the defending Olympic champion and current World Champion at the Omnium. In the men’s event, former World Road Race champion and 2011 Tour de France Green Jersey winner Mark Cavendish will be hoping to nab a gold medal, to complete his stellar collection of palmares.
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
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 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 Time Trial
The Kilo or One Kilometre Time Trial (500 metres in the women’s event) sees each rider individually set his or her fastest time for a kilometre. It’s a race of four laps against the clock.
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 40km on the track (25km 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.
As reigning World and Olympic champion, Laura Trott is the hot favourite for the Omnium, although the ever present American Sarah Hammer should pose a strong challenge, while Mark Cavendish is likely to renew his road-racing rivalry with Colombia’s rising star and current World Champion Fernando Gaviria.
The Omnium begins on 14th August for the men and 15 for the women, with coverage of the opening events starting at 8:40pm on BBC1