Guide to: Team pursuit

The team pursuit is a perfect symbol of team work as four riders cover four kilometres at a controlled speed, at the limits of their physical capability.

The Team pursuit sees four riders cover a distance of four kilomentres, 16 laps, riding as a cohesive unit to give each other shelter when they are not the rider on the front.

A team will pursue another team that starts on the opposite side of the track, except for qualifying rounds when a team rides alone to set a time. The race is between the two teams on the track with the winning team is the one that posts the fastest time.

A team’s time is taken from the third rider across the finish line. It is common to see a team lose one rider before the end, typically the weakest rider who cannot maintain the speed, or the rider in man one position whose starting effort hampers their ability to complete the distance.

Each team lines up side-by-side on the pursuit line in the home and back straights with ‘man one’ in the lowest position, just above the black pursuit line. It is their job to quickly get the team up to top speed, but steadily, allowing the three other riders to fall in line behind them. This generally takes around one-and-a-half laps of a 250m track.

England, Team Pursuit, Commonwealth Games 2014, day one

England, Team Pursuit, Commonwealth Games 2014, day one
(Image credit: Andy Jones)

Once a team is up to speed each rider will spend one or one-and-a-half laps on the front of the chain before swinging up the track in the banking, allowing their team mates to pass underneath them before dropping down the track and on to the wheel of the last rider. The best teams will maintain a consistent top speed as they make these changes and not allow for gaps to open up between the riders to ensure they gain maximum shelter. Riders can do shorter or longer turns – from half a lap to two laps – depending on whether or not they are starting to struggle or the strongest of the quartet.

If a team is caught by their opponents, they must not affect a change to allow the faster team to safely overtake them. In a medal race the race is over once one team passes their opponents, often referred to as 'making the catch'. If both teams need to post a time for classification in a following round they both continue to cover the full four kilometres.

A pursuit bike is a standard frame typically ridden with front and rear discs (on an indoor velodrome) and tri bars. Gearing is typically between 104 -120 inches.

Current world records

Men: GBR 3:51.659 min - set at the 2012 London Olympics

Women: GBR 4:16.552 min - set at Aguascalientes, Mexico

NB: The women’s team pursuit was introduced in 2008 as a three kilometre event with three riders. It was brought in line with the men’s event after the 2012 Olympics.

Current Olympic champions

Men – Great Britain (Ed Clancy, Geraint Thomas, Peter Kennaugh, Steven Burke)

Women – Great Britain (Joanna Rowsell, Laura Trott, Dani King)

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