Team pursuit: Track cycling video event guide

Presented by Olympic gold medallist Chris Boardman

Welcome to BikeRadar’s guide to the team pursuit, one of the six events that will be raced on the velodrome at the London 2012 Olympics.


In the following video, we’ve teamed up with 1992 Olympic gold medallist Chris Boardman, who explains the nature of the event and how it is won.

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Video: Team pursuit – track cycling event guide presented by Chris Boardman

What is the team pursuit?

The team pursuit pits two teams of up to four cyclists compete against each other over 16 laps of the track, or 4000m. The women’s event is 12 laps, or 3000m, in teams of three. Teams start on opposite sides of the track with the aim to either set the fastest time or catch and overtake the opposition.

Rules of the team pursuit

Riders follow each other closely to maintain an aerodynamic shape and reduce drag, with the lead rider periodically peeling of the front, swinging up the banking and rejoining at the rear. The final time is decided by the time of the front wheel of the third rider, which means the fourth team member usually takes a huge turn on the front towards the end. This allows his teammates to recover in order to make a final collective dash for the line. In the event of a false start the team is permitted another start, but only two starts are allowed.

The team pursuit demands riding in close formation at high speeds:
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The team pursuit demands riding in close formation at high speeds

Team pursuit in the Olympics

The team pursuit starts with a qualifying round. Teams are then seeded in the first round according to their qualifying times – the fastest team competes against the fourth fastest, second competes against third, fifth against eighth and sixth against seventh. The winners of the two heats between the top four teams advance to the finals; the remaining six teams are ranked according to their times from the first round, with the best two teams competing for bronze.

Team pursuit world records

The men’s team pursuit world record was set at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, with Great Britain setting a time of 3:53.31. In recent times, the men’s event has been dominated by the Great Britain and Australian teams. The British squad, which includes Geraint Thomas and Ed Clancy, lost out to the Aussies at the World Cup in London this February but took swift revenge a month later at the Melbourne World Championships.

The women’s team pursuit world record was set at the 2012 World Track Championships in Melbourne, where Great Britain’s Danielle King, Laura Trott and Joanna Rowsell’s clocked 3:15.720. The British women’s team are expected to continue to dominate this event at the London Olympics.

The aero bars on a pursuit bike are set wide to help with stability at high speeds:
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Handlebars are designed to be aerodynamic and with a stable riding position at high speeds