The team events in Olympic track bike racing offer the fascinating blend of individual speed, strength, finess and timing with strategy, cooperation and teamwork. It is amazing to see riders work in concert with the teammates to help each other and attempt to thwart their opponents.
- Team pursuit
- Team sprint
Team pursuit: In team pursuit, two teams of 4 riders compete over a distance of 4000 m. The teams start from opposite points of the track. The winner is the team which either catches its opponent or records the best time overall.
Other things to know: The team's position is determined by the finishing time of the third rider, so only three riders have to finish the complete race. Usually the four teammates form a single file pace line, and each takes a turn at the front, changing every lap or so to keep freshest legs up front. When the lead rider is done, he'll swing up and out of the way, allowing his teammates to pass, then drop back down and catch on to the rear.
Team sprint: Using two teams of three riders, this event is run over 750 m. The teams start at opposite ends of the track. At the start, riders form a paceline, and each rider leads a lap all out before dropping out and handing over to the next. The last rider finishes alone. Eight teams with the best times qualify; four of them are eliminated through head-to-head races in the next round. At the end, the two teams with the best times square off to decide the overall winner.
Madison: This event offers the perfect combination of teamwork, sprinting and endurance. Run by teams of two, only one rider of the pair is active in the race at any given point. All riders start at the same time, and the winner is the team covering the most laps in the time allotted. As the active rider races, the other rests as he continues to circle at a slower speed. Riders can take over from each other with a handslap or by actually grabbing their partner by the hand or shorts to literally sling the other back into the race. That gives the new rider a burst of speed and motion from the other as he exits the active role.
Trivia: This event is named for Madison Square Garden in New York City, which was originally built for bike racing and which hosted some of the most thrilling track events ever seen in the United States back in the 1920's and 30's.