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Track cycling

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Track cycling is a form of bicycle racing held on special-purpose banked tracks.

The velodromes, as the tracks are known as, are steeply banked, consisting of two 180-degree bends connected by two straights. The corner bankings are designed such that at typical racing speeds the inertia of the bicycle, the propulsive acceleration provided by the rider, and the gravitation force pulling the rider towards the bottom of the track are balanced such that the bicycle naturally follows the track around the corner at a constant radial position on the track - consequently, the rider is able to concentrate on other matters rather than forcing the bicycle to turn. Velodrome surfaces are traditionally constructed out of wood or smoothed concrete. While outdoor veldromes were most common, recently indoor versions have become the norm for high-level competition.

Bicycles used for track cycling are especially designed for the purpose. Unlike bicycles used for road riding, they lack multiple gears and brakes, and have lightweight bodies typically constructed from expensive materials with high strength-to-mass ratios like carbon fibre. Bodywork is designed to reduce aerodynamic drag. Tyres and wheels are narrow, with the tyres generally inflated to pressures well beyond those used in road cycling in an effort to minimise the "rolling resistance" caused by friction. Handlebars can differ signficantly from the familiar drop bars found on road bicycles. Often riders will use triathlon bars designed to allow the rider to extend their arms in front of their body which leans forward almost to the horizontal so as to present the minimum frontal area and thus reducing drag. These triathalon bars or aerobars are often bolted on to traditional drop bars or more aerodynamic bull horn bars. Note that recumbent bicycles can actually be ridden faster, but are banned from competition.

Formats of track cycle races are also heavily influenced by aerodynamics. If one rider closely follows or "drafts" another, because the leading rider pushes air around themselves, any rider closely following has to push out less air than the lead rider and thus can travel at the same speed while expending less effort. This fact has led to a variety of racing styles that allow clever riders or teams to exploit this tactical advantage, as well as formats that simply test strength, speed and endurance.

Track cycling is most popular in Europe, notably France and Germany where it is often used as off-season training by road racers. The sport also has significant followings in Japan and Australia. It is part of the Summer Olympic Games, and there are world championships as well as circuits of professional events in many areas.

The sport is regulated by the UCI[?] in Switzerland.

Some of the most common race formats include:

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