Olympic track cycling explainer: Madison

Here's a handy explainer to help you understand the Madison event at the 2021 Olympics.

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Finals: Aug. 6 (women) Aug. 7 (men)

How it works: The Madison is a relay race of two riders in which only one rider is “in the race” at any time. Points are awarded in intermediate sprints throughout the race, and teams can also gain points by lapping the field — but they can also lose points by being lapped. The final sprint awards double points to the victors.

The men race for 200 laps (50km) while the women race 120 laps (30km), and in both races, there will be 16 two-person teams zipping around the velodrome. The defining image of the Madison is the handoff, where the actively racing teammate links hands with the resting teammate and then slingshots the rider from behind back into the race to contend for the points.

What to watch for: These days, the victory is almost always decided by a move to lap the field — sometimes lapping it twice — so keep your eyes out for teams looking to attack during a lull. Cagy teams will often let the newcomers go for the opening sprint before pouncing, so look for the experienced teams from Great Britain, Spain, and the Netherlands to await their turn to pounce on the field once legs and lungs are tired. The best riders are endurance riders who can sense the mood of the peloton and know when to attack.

Favorites men: Denmark, New Zealand, Germany, Great Britain, The Netherlands

Favorites women: Netherlands, France, Great Britain, Italy

North Americans: Jennifer Valente and Megan Jastrab (USA), Derek Gee and Michael Foley (Canada), Adrian Hegyvary and Gavin Hoover (USA)