The Omnium is essentially cycling’s equivalent of the decathlon. Cyclists take part in six events over two (or three) days, with the rider who accumulates the most points winning the gold medal. These days, the Omnium is also used to define some endurance cycling events which take place over multiple days.
Here we take a look at what the Omnium is in cycling and the events that cyclists compete in.
The Omnium in Cycling
There are six events in the Omnium which take place in a purpose built Velodrome. The velodrome is a specially designed oval track measuring 250 metres around.
The Events in the Omnium
- Scratch Race - All riders start together, first to cross the line wins. The race length is 15km (60 laps) for men and 10km (40 laps) for women.
- Individual Pursuit - two cyclists start on opposite sides of the track, with victory coming either from completing the event in the fastest time or catching the opponent. It is 4km for men (16 laps) and 3km for women (12 laps).
- Elimination Race - 18 cyclists start at the same time. After every 2 laps there is a sprint lap where the last rider across the finish line is eliminated. Last man/woman standing wins
- Time Trial - A race against the clock. Individual cyclists try to get the fastest time for the race. 1km (4 laps) for men and 0.5km (2 laps) for women.
- Flying Lap - A very short speed lap. Individual cyclists are given one lap to get up to speed and then are timed for the last 200metres. The fastest wins.
- Points Race - The final event is also the longest. 40km (160 laps) for men and 25km (100 laps) for women. Riders can win and lose points from their overall total, making the points race the pivotal event of the Omnium. Every ten laps there is a sprint lap, where the first four riders across the line receive points (5, 3, 2 and 1 points respectively). However, the main objective is to gain a lap on the rest of the field of cyclists. If one rider only achieves this, they are the outright winners but if more than one cyclist manages to gain a lap, then it comes down to the points accumulated in the race. If a rider loses a lap to the rest of the field (is overtaken) they lose points. Which means there is very little respite over the 40km.
How are points awarded?
The first placed rider receives 40 points with those behind getting 2 points less and so on.
- 1st: 40points
- 2nd: 38points
- 3rd: 36points
- 4th: 34points etc.
Events organisers have created the omnium for road races and endurance cycling competitions. The events take place over 2 or 3 days and are essentially the same as the events in the velodrome: just on very different surfaces. They can be on a closed-circuit (a lap around a city) or A to B (eg. from London to Brighton). The most common events are:
- Time Trial - a fixed distance race against the clock. The fastest takes the points.
- Criterium (crit) - A closed circuit (from 400 to 10,000 metres) race with a designated amount of laps.
- Mass-start road race - All riders start at the same time and compete for first place over a designated distance.
So, that’s omnium cycling. A series of events over a couple of days where riders try to accumulate the most points for glory. As the events require different skills; endurance, speed, sprinting and so on, the cyclist taking part needs to have a well-rounded set of competencies. Just like in the decathlon, the athletes may not be the fastest or the strongest in one particular event only, but they can do a series of varying events extremely well. It’s tough.