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Olympics

Olympic track cycling explainer: Sprint

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

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Finals: Aug. 6 (men), Aug. 8 (women).

How it works: In the medal rounds, two riders cover three laps of the track, with the first rider across the line winning the race. The best of three wins a medal or advances to the next round. Sounds easy, right?

Well, before those rounds the event kicks off with a series of qualification races. The event opens with each rider completing a flying-start time trial, in which the final 200 meters of the run are timed (riders get 2.5 laps to get up to speed). Then, based on seeding, riders proceed to knockout rounds, with top qualifiers facing off against bottom qualifiers until there are just four riders left. Then, it’s all about the battle for best two out of three for medals.

What to watch for: The Sprint can be as much of a test of patience as it is a test of strength, especially in the later rounds, when top riders face off against each other. Nobody wants to take the lead, since riding in the slipstream gives a rider such a sizable advantage. So, riders will play cat-and-mouse in the early laps, trying to get their opponent to take the lead. Watch for a track stand face-off, when two riders stop and balance on the track in a game of high-stakes chicken.

Favorites men: Harrie Lavreysen (The Netherlands), Jeffrey Hoogland (The Netherlands), Azizulhasni Awang (Malaysia), Mateusz Rudyk (Poland)

Favorites women: Lee Wai-sze (Hong Kong), Stephanie Morton (Australia), Emma Hinze (Germany), Anastasia Voynova (Russian Olympic Committee)

North Americans: Lauriane Genest, Kelsey Mitchell, Hugo Barrette, Nick Wammes (Canada), Maddie Godby (USA)