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The “Trackstand” is the art of balancing on a bicycle that is stationary. The skill originated in the sport of match sprinting on a Velodrome, which is a banked oval track. Hence trackstand.

A 1,000 meter event is usually 3 laps of a track, as most Velodromes are designed to measure 333 1/3 meters to a lap. Some indoor tracks are shorter.

Match sprinting at a world class level is usually two riders on the track at a time, riding in three matches; best of three to determine the winner. Obviously, if a rider took off at a high rate of speed from the start, his opponent would simply draft behind him, and at the end of three laps, with fresh legs would come by to win.

One rider has to lead for the first lap; usually by a draw or coin-toss initially; in the second match the other rider leads. It is a definite advantage to be in the rear position. If the leading rider makes an effort the rider behind can immediately match that effort, and get into the lead rider’s slipstream.

The lead rider is at a distinct disadvantage. Not only is his opponent already in a position to draft him; in order for the lead rider to watch his following opponent he must turn his head.

At any time when the lead rider looks to the front, or looks over the wrong shoulder, his opponent can attack hard and open up a considerable gap that might be hard to close before the finish line. After leading for the first lap the lead rider will slow, even come to a complete stop to try to force the other rider to take the lead.

The trackstand is executed by turning the front wheel to the right facing up the banking of the track; the front wheel will tend to roll backwards down the slope of the track. By applying forward pressure on the pedal; the rider can force the bike and the front wheel forward to oppose gravity, and maintain balance.

This takes a great deal of skill, and if the rider loses balance he has no option but to move forward or risk falling over. The above video from the 1990 World Championships shows the art of trackstanding at its best.

Italian rider Claudio Golinelli has to lead for the first lap; then he manages to stop completely and force Micheal Huebner his East German opponent to take the lead. Huebner then picks up the pace a little; soon after the bell goes for the final lap, the East German gets out of the saddle looking like he might attack.

But instead it appears Huebner is holding back against his fixed wheel to slow the bike because Golinelli suddenly goes past, hesitates, and then attacks, losing any chance of surprise.

I believe the Italian rider was surprised when he suddenly found himself in front position with no alternative but to attack. Had he not done so the East German would have surely attacked from behind, and being so close to the finish Golinelli would have no chance of closing the gap in time.

Both riders rode a great tactical race, but in the end it was Huebner who was not only the stronger but also managed to outwit a worthy opponent. Had the Italian realized Huebner was back-pedaling and attacked from behind he may have held off this stronger rider as he crossed the line, but the moment’s hesitation cost him the race.



Reader Comments (7)

Good one, Dave!

February 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Graves

Typo, 333m, not 33. that would be hell of a barrel. Today's standard for competition on the highest level is 250m, e.g., all the tracks used for World Cup, World Championships and Olympics.

I'm lucky enough to have an open air velodrome three metro stations and a short walk away. It's a smooth concrete track, 333 1/3m with 34° banks and 7° straights. Originally built in 1941 as 412m long with 22° banks and flat straights, rebuilt in 1952 to 381m with sloped straights and finally rebuilt in 1966-71 to its current shape and length. It now has a new surface from three years ago and it's a pure pleasure to ride on.

Track racing is the pure essence of cycling, the bicycles are as simple as it gets, the surface is smooth, the speeds are high. I spend most of the time riding and racing on a road bike, hit the trails in the woods and cyclocross courses when it gets cold, but there is something magical about the moment when you get catapulted from the last corner of a track at full speed dashing towards the finish line. I can't get enough of it.

Btw., the current UCI rules actually state that the rider in first position has to lead for half a lap and he must maintain at least walking pace. Only then are trackstands allowed. The maximum duration of a trackstand is now also limited to 30 seconds, which is a shame.

(Edit.) Typo corrected, thanks, Dave.

February 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThe Tashkent Error

Thanks! Phil Liggett doing the audio, nice.

February 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack

Great post, thanks. We saw an epic track stand at the start of a sprint cup on the velodrome at Amsterdam a few years ago. Theo Bos and a rider I cannot remember engaged in a nine minute standoff which ended only when a track official walked out and complained they were delaying the program. Bos won...

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTimJ

Great post! I was amazed! Please put more of these if you can/want! Thanks!

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterheltonbiker

Look closely and you'll see me in the stands at this event. Couple of interesting points: many Japanese tracks, including the Maebashi dome above, are longer than 333.3 meters. This track actually had an Olympic sized track built inside of it. Second, Huebner slowed too much in this event and slooowly slid down the banking. Really embarrassing, if you're not the fastest man on two wheels. So complete was his domination that the normal rules of strategy didn't apply—he could lead out as easily as motoring past his opponent. I was watching the event with some professional keirin racers (including the great Koichi Nakano, who gave it a go despite being retired) who spoke little English. I asked them "Who does he look like?" and they all said, without having to think "Terminator."
Other highlights this year included a young Slava Ekimov's stunning pursuiting skills, and the ageless Danny Clark in the derny race, which I watched with framebuilder Nagasawa, who constantly being inturrupted to wrench on bikes.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commentertonyd

Thanks Dave,
That was super!

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTim
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