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Preview: Everything you need to know about the UCI Track World Championships

An overview of all the events and the title favorites for the track worlds, which takes place this week in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, France.

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The cycling season is never really over and as disciplines like road and mountain biking wind up for their winter breaks, track and cyclo-cross move into center stage.

After a short break following the European track championships in August — and a selection of national championships around the globe — the track season really kicks into gear this weekend with the UCI World Track Championships.

After taking place in the Stab Vélodrome in Roubaix last season, the event stays in France for another year. This week, the world’s top track riders will descend on the Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines track, which is just beyond Versaille to the southwest of Paris.

Events will take place from Wednesday, October 12 to Sunday, October 16.

Traditionally, the worlds have been held in the spring just as the track season is coming to a close, but it was shunted into October last year due to a range of reasons. It was initially delayed due to COVID-19 restrictions but outcry over human rights saw the event moved from Turkmenistan to Roubaix.

It seems that, for now at least, the UCI is happy with this new autumn slot and it’s going to stick around for another year. It makes sense, too, as cramming two world championships into the space of about six months would be tough and 2024 will be in August anyway as part of the new multi-discipline worlds in Glasgow.

New UCI Hour Record holder Filippo Ganna (Italy) will be among the star names on the boards in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, alongside Lotte Kopecky (Belgium), Kelsey Mitchel (Canada), Michael Mørkøv (Denmark), Gavin Hoover (USA), Benjamin Thomas (France), Vittoria Guazzini (Italy), Harrie Lavreysen (Netherlands), Emma Hinze (Germany), and Jennifer Valente (USA), to name just a few.

Let’s dig down into what we can expect over the five days of action in France.

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Finals schedule

There will be 22 titles on offer, equally split between men and women, spread between individual and team events. Each evening session will have at least three finals with some nights seeing as many as five world champions crowned.

Wednesday, October 12: Women’s scratch race, women’s team sprint, men’s team sprint.

Thursday, October 13: Men’s team pursuit, women’s elimination, men’s keirin, men’s scratch race, women’s team pursuit.

Friday, October 14: Men’s points race, men’s 1km TT, men’s individual pursuit, women’s individual sprint, women’s omnium.

Saturday, October 15: Women’s 500m TT, women’s Madison, women’s individual pursuit, men’s omnium.

Sunday, October 16: Women’s points race, men’s individual sprint, men’s Madison, women’s keirin, men’s elimination.

Event breakdown, favorites

Scratch race

The scratch race at the 2022 European track championships
The scratch race at the 2022 European track championships

Description: This is possibly the simplest of the track cycling disciplines to explain. It is a bunch race and the first rider over the line will take the victory. The women’s race will be contested over 10km while the men’s is 15km.

Defending champions: Donavan Grondin (France) — men, Martina Fidanza (Italy) — women.

Favorites

Men: Donavan Grondin (France), Roy Effting (Netherlands), Rhys Britton (Great Britain), Tuur Dens (Belgium), Corbin Strong (New Zealand), Moritz Malcharek (Germany), Mattia Pinazzi (Italy).

Women: Martina Fidanza (Italy), Anita Yvonne Stenberg (Norway), Maggie Coles-Lister (Canada), Jennifer Valente (United States), Maike van der Duin (Netherlands), Petra Ševčíková (Czech Republic), Yumi Kajihara (Japan).

Team sprint

The Dutch women's team pursuit squad
The Dutch women’s team pursuit squad (Photo: ANP via Getty Images)

Description: This is effectively a short team time trial, but with a few differences. Both men and women field teams of three riders for this event. All three set off at the same time and slot into a tight line led by the designated rider 1. This rider will lead the team around the entire first lap before peeling off and allowing rider 2 to take up the pace, this process happens again at the end of the second lap with just one rider crossing the line on the final lap. The fastest team takes the win.

Defending champions: Netherlands — men, Germany — women.

Favorites

Men: Netherlands, France, Great Britain, Denmark, Australia, Germany

Women: Germany, Netherlands, Poland, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand

Individual sprint

Jack Carlin in the men's individual sprint at the European championships
Jack Carlin in the men’s individual sprint at the European championships

Description: Like the team event, the aim of the game is to be the fastest rider to cross the line, but the tactics are very different. In the qualifying rounds, the riders will have one or two laps to warm up go all out over one lap to set the quickest time. This will decide who will go through to the sprint matchups and who will go against who in these. In the later rounds, these matchups are a best of three format over three laps. Riders can strike out early and try to surprise their rival with a long-range sprint, or ride slowly early on to try and force the hand of their opponent before a late dash to the line.

Defending champions: Harrie Lavreysen (Netherlands) — men, Emma Hinze (Germany) — women.

Favorites

Men: Harrie Lavreysen (Netherlands), Jeffrey Hoogland (Netherlands), Sébastien Vigier (France), Jack Carlin (Great Britain), Jair Tjon En Fa (Suriname), Stefan Bӧtticher (Germany).

Women: Emma Hinze (Germany), Kelsey Mitchell (Canada), Lea Sophie Friedrich (Germany), Mathilde Gros (France), Laurine van Riessen (Netherlands), Lauriane Genest (Canada).

Team pursuit

Italy has dominated the men's team pursuit in recent seasons
Italy has dominated the men’s team pursuit in recent seasons (Photo: Soeren Stache/picture alliance via Getty)

Description: A more traditional take on the team time trial with riders racing in a single line and swapping turns on the front of the line. Both men’s and women’s races are contested over four kilometers with four riders in the team. There’s no set length of time a rider must spend on the front and it can vary depending on the overall strength of the squad. A can only lose one rider from the line with the final time taken when the last rider crosses the line. Two teams will compete on track at the same time, setting off from opposite sides of the track. The winner is usually decided by the fastest time set, but if one team catches the other, the event is over and the team that made the catch is declared the winner.

Defending champions: Italy — men, Germany — women.

Favorites

Men: Italy, France, Great Britain, Denmark, Switzerland

Women: Germany, Italy, United States, Australia, Great Britain

Individual pursuit

Aaron Gate rides the individual pursuit
Aaron Gate rides the individual pursuit (Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Description: This is a solo effort with men competing over four kilometers and women racing over three. In the qualifying rounds, the riders aim to set the quickest time of all the competitors with the top riders going into the knockout rounds. In these, the riders are directly competing against the opponent on the track. Like the team event, it is decided by the rider who sets the fastest time. A rider can also win by catching their opponent.

Defending champions: Ashton Lambie (United States) — men, Lisa Brennauer (Germany — women.

Favorites

Men: Aaron Gate (New Zealand), Nicolas Heinrich (Germany), Jonathan Milan (Italy), Filippo Ganna (Italy), Dan Bigham (Great Britain), Claudio Imhof (Switzerland).

Women: Mieke Kröger (Germany), Franziska Brauße (Germany), Vittoria Guazzini (Italy), Martina Alzini (Italy), Marion Borras (France), Lily Williams (United States).

Elimination Race

Elimination race at the Glagow round of the track nations cup
Elimination race at the Glagow round of the track nations cup

Description: It is a bunch race where the first rider to cross the finish line is the winner, but the added catch is that riders are eliminated every two laps. There’s an art in staying off the front to conserve energy, but not be so far back that you get eliminated too early.

Defending champions: Elia Viviani (Italy) — men, Letizia Paternoster (Italy) — women.

Favorites

Men: Elia Viviani (Italy), Gavin Hoover (United States), Theo Reinhardt (Germany), Jules Hesters (Belgium), Donavan Grondin (France), Yoeri Havik (Netherlands).

Women: Letizia Paternoster (Italy), Lotte Kopecky (Belgium), Laura Kenny (Great Britain), Michalle Andres (Switzerland), Jennifer Valente (United States), Olivija Baleišyte (Lithuania).

Keirin

The opening laps of the Keirin are ridden behind the Derny
The opening laps of the Keirin are ridden behind the Derny (Photo: Eric Lalmand/Belga/AFP via Getty Images)

Description: A rare sprint bunch race with up to six riders per race. It takes place over six laps with the first three ridden behind a motorized bike known as a derny. The riders slot in behind the derny in one line with the pace increased gradually until the motorized bike pulls off the front with three laps to go. From there, the riders battle it out to be first across the line.

Defending champions: Harrie Lavreysen (Netherlands) — men, Lea Sophie Friedrich (Germany).

Favorites

Men: Harrie Lavreysen (Netherlands)Jeffrey Hoogland (Netherlands), Stefan Bӧtticher (Germany), Kento Yamasaki (Japan), Sébastien Vigier (France), Matthew Glaetzer (Australia).

Women: Lea Sophie Friedrich (Germany), Mina Sato (Japan), Kelsey Mitchell (Canada), Mathilde Gros (France), Laurine van Riessen (Netherlands), Urszula Łoś (Poland).

Points race

The winner of the points race is the rider with the most points
The winner of the points race is the rider with the most points (Photo: Eric Lalmand/Belga/AFP via Getty Images)

Description: A bunch race that is ridden over 40km for the men and 25km for the women. Unlike most bunch races, the winner is not necessarily the first rider to cross the line. Instead, riders accrue points throughout the event with points awarded during sprints every 10 laps. Riders can also gain points by lapping the field, so expect plenty of attacks throughout. The rider with the most amount of points at the end is the winner.

Defending champions: Benjamin Thomas (France) — men, Lotte Kopecky (Belgium) — women

Favorites

Men: Benjamin Thomas (France), Robbie Ghys (Belgium), Vincent Hoppezak (Netherlands), Roger Kluge (Germany), Sebastian Mora (Spain), Aaron Gate (New Zealand), Corbin Strong (New Zealand).

Women: Lotte Kopecky (Belgium), Katie Archibald (Great Britain), Silvia Zanardi (Italy), Anita Yvonne Stenberg (Norway), Maggie Coles-Lyster (Canada).

1km/500m time trial

The men's TT is over 1,000m and the women's is 500m
The men’s TT is over 1,000m and the women’s is 500m

Description: This is an all-out effort for the sprinters to see who is the fastest with men racing it out over a kilometer and women over 500m. Riders will go from a standing start and will have to leave it all out on the track. Unlike some events, there is only one rider on track at any given time.

Defending champion: Jeffrey Hoogland (Netherlands) — men, Leah Sophie Friedrich (Germany) — women.

Favorites

Men: Jeffrey Hoogland (Netherlands), Harrie Lavreysen (Netherlands), Melvin Landerneau (France), Alejandro Martinez (Spain), Maximilian Dörnbach (Germany), Matthew Glaetzer (Australia).

Women: Leah Sophie Friedrich (Germany), Martha Bayona Pineda (Colombia), Emma Hinze (Germany), Miriam Vece (Italy), Olena Starikova (Ukraine).

Omnium

The women's omnium at the European track championships
The women’s omnium at the European track championships (Photo: Ben McShane/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Description: The omnium has changed format slightly over the years. The current structure, which was introduced after the 2016 season, sees the riders compete over four events with the best overall from the four races declared the winner. Contested over a single day, the riders will compete a scratch race, tempo race, elimination race, and a points race. These are separate to the scratch, elimination, and points events earlier in the week. The tempo race is the only one that doesn’t have its own separate world championship event. It is contested over 7.5km for the women and 10km for the men with one point awarded after every lap following the end of the fifth lap. Riders can gain points by lapping the field and lose them by being lapped.

Defending champions: Ethan Hayter (Great Britain) — men, Katie Archibald (Great Britain) — women.

Favorites

Men: Ethan Hayter (Great Britain), Donavan Grondin (France), Aaron Gate (New Zealand), Elia Viviani (Italy), Gavin Hoover (United States), Shunsuke Imamura (Japan), Sebastian Mora (Spain).

Women: Katie Archibald (Great Britain), Lotte Kopecky), Maike van der Duin (Netherlands), Anita Yvonne Stenberg (Norway), Elisa Balsamo (Italy), Clara Copponi (France).

Madison

The handsling is an iconic part of the Madison
The handsling is an iconic part of the Madison (Photo: Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

Description: Possibly the most confusing of the track disciplines to follow, the Madison seems teams of two competing in a bunch event. It is effectively a relay event with the two riders swapping over every few laps. Only one rider is “in the race” at any moment with the other considered to be resting as they ride around the top of the track. Riders will swap positions by grabbing hands and slinging the resting teammate into the race. The aim of the race is to rack up the most amount of points through intermediate sprints or gaining a lap on the peloton.

Defending champions: Denmark — men, Netherlands — women.

Favorites

Men: Belgium, Italy, Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, France.

Women: Italy, France, Great Britain, Netherlands, Denmark