Omnium: What is the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Omnium and how does it work?

Get to know the Omnium for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

Omnium at the UCI Belgium Track Meet in Gent in April 2021
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The revamped Omnium is now a one-day event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games with more of a focus on endurance events over the four-race-long discipline. The men's event takes place on Thursday, August 5 and the women's takes place on the final day on Sunday, August 8.

TOKYO 2020 CYCLING: OMNIUM

The Omnium sees individual riders take part in multiple events that usually take place over two days. But the format has been changed for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games with the races being more about endurance and take place over one day.

Returning defending champion Elia Viviani, Mark Cavendish, Lasse Norman Hansen and Fernando Gaviria of road cycling fame thrived in this back at Rio 2016 Olympics in the men's.

Britain's Laura Kenny, champion at Rio 2016, Katie Archibald, Kirsten Wild, Jolien d'Hoore, and Amalie Dideriksen are all top names on the women's side too.

Originally, the Omnium was a six-race event, which included the Scratch Race, Individual Pursuit, Elimination Race, 1km Time Trial, Flying Lap, and Points Race.

>>> Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games cycling schedule: when to watch the racing

However, since 2016, the format has changed to remove the timed events and focus on the Scratch, Elimination and Points races as well as the inclusion of the Tempo race. All these events are mass participation.

The Scratch is the first round and is takes on 15km for the men and 10km for the women. It is a mass participation event with every rider taking part in the Omnium racing, almost like a road race in a velodrome. 

Riders begin by lining up on the inner rail of the track and hold themselves up before taking a neutral lap with a pistol starting to signify the start. If a rider is lapped by the peloton they must leave the race. 

The main aim is to get a lap on the peloton. While it doesn't do anything to points, it means that the riders who are in the peloton that didn't take the lap, can not beat the riders who have. This suits the track sprinters who have good endurance too. 

After that, the second event in the Omnium is the Tempo race. This is a new addition, with the races lasting for 10km in the men's race and 7.5km in the women's. This has a similar format to the Madison except riders do not team-up. 

Just one point is awarded to the first rider to cross the line each lap from the end of the fifth lap. However, if a rider gains a lap, they will take 20 points and on the flip side if they lose a lap they will lose 20 points. Simple, right?

Third on the list of races for the riders to tackle on the same night is the Elimination Race. This is pretty self-explanatory but there are a few rules to it. Every two laps from the start there is a sprint. The last rider to cross the line is eliminated leaving a handful of riders to sprint for the line in the final lap. This favours riders with nerves of steel and the craftiness to be able to not use too much energy.

Bringing the Omnium to a close is the ever-exciting points race. This is one of the most exhilarating races you're likely to see in the velodrome. That being said, it can be hard to follow what is going on.

To make it sound as simple as possible, the race is a long one, usually 40km for the men and 25km for the women. There is a sprint every 10 laps with five, three, two, and one points available each time for the top four riders.

Much like in the Tempo, riders will be awarded 20 points when taking a lap and deducted 20 for losing one. This is the main way of gaining points on rivals and often can swing the whole event on its head in the final few laps.

The best tactic is to try and go out to take a lap as well as a sprint lap meaning you would take 25 points and a bigger haul as well as better chances of a medal.

The winner of the Omnium medals will be determined by who has the highest medal scores after the final event. In the unlikely event of a tie the Points race final sprint placings will decide who takes the medal. 

TOKYO 2020 OMNIUM SCHEDULE

Thursday, August 5, 3.30pm - 6:50pm Japan/7.30am - 10.50am UK

Men's Omnium Scratch Race 1\4
Men's Omnium Tempo Race 2\4
Men's Omnium Elimination Race 3\4
Men's Omnium Points Race 4\4
Men's Omnium Victory Ceremony

Sunday, August 8, 10am - 1.15pm Japan/2am - 5.15am UK

Women's Omnium Scratch Race 1/4
Women's Omnium Tempo Race 2/4
Women's Omnium Elimination Race 3/4
Women's Omnium Points Race 4/4
Women's Omnium Victory Ceremony

Tim Bonville-Ginn
Tim Bonville-Ginn

Tim Bonville-Ginn is one of Cycling Weekly's content writers for the web team responsible for writing stories on racing, tech, updating evergreen pages as well as the weekly email newsletter.


Bonville-Ginn started working in cycling journalism while still at school and university for a voluntary site based on Twitter before also doing slots for Eurosport's online web team and has been on location at the Tour de Yorkshire, Tour of Britain, UCI World Championships and various track events. He then joined the Cycling Weekly team in late February of 2020.


When not writing stories for the site, Bonville-Ginn doesn't really switch off his cycling side as he watches every race that is televised as well as being a rider himself and a regular user of the game Pro Cycling Manager.


He rides a Specialized Tarmac SL4 when out on his local roads back in West Yorkshire as well as in northern Hampshire with the hills and mountains being his preferred terrain.