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The omnium track cycling event makes its Olympic debut at London 2012.  It controversially replaces the three separate individual pursuit, madison and points competitions which were raced at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

The omnium consists of six separate events: the flying lap, the points race, the elimination race, the individual pursuit, the scratch race and the time trial.  The flying lap is a time trial over 250m.  In the points race riders gain points in sprints held every 10 laps, and for lapping the field over a total distance of 30km for the men and 20km for the women.  The elimination race is a bunch race with a sprint every two laps, with the last-placed rider is eliminated after each sprint.  In the individual pursuit two riders race against the clock, starting at opposite sides of the track, over a distance of 4km (men) or 3km (women).  The scratch race is a simple first-past-the-post competition.  The men’s distance is 16km, while the women race over 10km.  The time trial is a race against the clock over 1km for the men and 500m for the women.

The scoring in the omnium is unique and fairly complicated.  The winner of each of the six events scores one point, the second placed rider scores two points, the third placed competitor scores three points and so on.  The final winner is the rider with the lowest cumulative score after all six events.

The omnium was re-introduced into the World Championships in 2007 after an absence of almost 40 years as a five-race competition held on a single day.  Since then the International Cycling Union (UCI) has changed this to the current six-event format raced over two days.

The introduction of the omnium to the Olympic competition at London 2012 has proved contentious amongst top cyclists.  Like the decathlon or heptathlon in athletics, it rewards all-round performance over specialist achievement and requires mental and physical toughness to perform consistently over two days in multiple events combining elements of both sprint and endurance.  Could the omnium be the ultimate test of all-round track cycling excellence?

As always we will be there.

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