Position for the Sprint: A performance analysis of intermediate sprints in the Men’s Elite Omnium Points Race
Keywords:Omnium, Performance Analysis, Track Cycling, Pacing, Race Craft
Introduction: In the Omnium Points Race, points are awarded to the first 4 participants (sprint ranks) to cross the finish line at the end of every tenth lap (intermediate sprint), with 5 points given to first place, 3 to second, 2 to third, and 1 awarded to fourth with the winner being the participant with the most points at the end. Therefore, there is an advantage to maximising points scored however, there is no research exploring how this is achieved. This study aimed to identify determinants of performance in intermediate sprints during the Men’s Elite Omnium Points Race.
Method: Seven UCI competitions in the 2019/2020 season were video recorded. After the competition, the videos were analysed to assess peak speeds, pacing and positioning of the 4 sprint ranks in each intermediate sprint. Time stamps recorded each time a points scoring sprint rank completed a half lap by crossing the Pursuit Line. The time stamped data was used to calculate average speed for each half lap, the time taken to complete each half lap and the position of sprint ranks within the bunch at the end of each half lap during the 10 laps in the lead up to each sprint (subsectiontenlap).
Results: A one-way ANOVA demonstrated no significant differences (P>.05) in the peak half lap, 1 lap, 2 lap or 5 lap average speeds between 1st to 4th place sprint ranks. The Smallest Worthwhile Change (SWC) in difference of time taken to complete each half lap between points scoring sprint ranks was calculated as -0.15s. The median difference between 1st sprint rank and the other points scoring sprint ranks was greater (faster) than the SWC for half laps: 4 and 6 from 2nd sprint rank, 2, 5.5 and 6 from 3rd sprint rank and 4, 4.5, 5.5, 6 and 6.5 from 4th sprint rank. Conversely, there were only 3 differences greater than SWC for the other sprint ranks: half laps 1.5 and 2 for 2nd sprint rank from 3rd and half lap 6 for 4th place from 3rd. Kruskal Wallis Tests with Dunn’s Multiple Comparisons of rank order at the end of each half lap show 1st place sprint rank is more likely to be in a more advanced position than the 3rd place sprint rank at: lap 6 (P=.048) lap 7 (P=.016) and laps 8, to 10 (P≤.01), than the 4th place sprint rank from laps 8 to 10 (P≤.01) and from 2nd place sprint ranks at laps 9.5 and 10 (P=.03, <.01). 2nd place sprint rank was likely to be in a more advanced position from 4th place sprint rank for laps 9, 9.5 and 10 (P=.04, <.01, <.01) and from 3rd place sprint rank for laps 9.5 and 10 (P=<.01, <.01). 3rd place sprint rank was only likely to be in a more advanced position from 4th place sprint rank at the last half lap (P=<.01).
Conclusion: All sprint ranks achieve similar peak speeds over half lap to 5 lap durations. Therefore the difference between earning maximal points is due to the distribution of speed throughout the subsectiontenlap and the relationship between pacing and the positioning relative to opponents. Participants finishing in 1st place sprint rank were more likely to travel faster throughout the middle section of the subsectiontenlap which concurs with the observation of the 1st place sprint rank being more likely to move to a more advanced position at the midway point in the subsectiontenlap.
This research has shown, there is a minimum peak speed demand that athletes must achieve to be competitive within the elite men’s omnium points race – the ticket to race – but, to win an Intermediate sprint, athletes must gain an advantage on their opponents by pacing themselves to position further forwards in the bunch and subsequently in distance during the middle section of each subsectiontenalp.
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