Some describe the omnium as the track cycling version of the heptathlon, a six discipline track event that tests strength, endurance, speed and tactical ability. Riders must compete in all six events and after every event the rider is issued points depending on where they finish. Points are awarded in reverse order, ie. First place receives 1 point, second 2 etc. The rider with the least amount of points at the end of the six disciplines wins.
The six disciplines in the Omnium are:
Flying lap time trial
This is a 250m race against the clock where the riders have a flying start (rather than standing in the longer Time trials). The flying start allows the riders 1-3 laps of the track (depending on the size of the track). Before the clock starts the riders use the top of the track to build up their speed, dropping to the bottom of the track once the final bell sounds to complete the 200m trial.
30 km for men 20 km for women – This race is where speed, endurance and tactics come into play. The riders earn points in two ways and at the end of the race the rider with the most points wins. All the competitors start on the track together and ride laps, generally around 120-160, with a sprint every 10 laps. The points awarded to the first 4 winners of each sprint are as follows: 5-1st, 3-2nd, 2 -3rd, 1 -4th. Another way to earn points is to lap the main bunch in a breakaway. If a rider is successful in doing this they will earn 20 points towards their final score. Riders generally play this in two ways. Some sit in the bunch conserving energy and attempt to gain points in the sprint, whilst some will attempt a breakaway and try and lap the group to gain a much larger portion of the points at one time.
This race will see a maximum of 24 competitors ride laps of the track; every two laps the last rider over the line is eliminated. A rider is notified they are out of the race by a light that is fitted to the bars before the race begins. When the last two riders remain they must sprint for the win.
4000m for men, 3000m for women – The same as the Team Pursuit, two individual riders line up on opposite ends of the track and the one with the fastest time wins. If a catch is achieved (where one rider catches the other) the rider is immediately declared the winner. The rider with the fastest time in each showdown progresses to the knock out stage. The top two surviving fight for first and second whilst the remaining two compete for third and fourth.
This is a straight forward race, 15km for the men and 10km for the woman, where the rider over the line at the end first wins. Like the points race, if a rider manages to gain an entire lap on the peloton and maintain it until the end they are the overall winner.
1km men 500m women – The riders compete individually against the clock, the one with the fastest time at the end wins.
The next Olympic Games will be held in Tokyo in 2020.