|Men’s Individual Sprint|
Individual sprints are great fun to watch... once you figure out what's going on! Television commentators usually talk about a "cat and mouse game", which implies that one of the competitors is a mouse. Really, it's more like a "wolf on wolf" game, with each rider marking out their territory, stalking the other, and attacking at the end.
First, the riders are seeded according to their flying 200m time. They are allowed to ride around the top of the track for a couple of laps, and then they make a huge effort and dive down from the top of the track to the black line (the shortest distance around the track) for 200m.
In the match sprint rounds, the riders start out slowly on their first of 3 laps, trying to force their competitor into a position they don't like, and trying to protect their own strongest position. This requires a good knowledge of your competitor's strengths, weaknesses, personality, and even which leg they like to have in front when they start an acceleration.
The riders will go very slowly around the track for as long as possible, to save energy for the final sprint. They might go up to the top of the track, to try to ‘pin' their opponent against the railing, or they might even come to a complete stop. This is allowed for a short time, as they try to force their opponent to make a move, but if the "track stand" goes on for too long the Commissaire will stop the race and restart it.
As they get into the final part of the race, one of the riders will try to ‘jump' away from the other, when they feel they've got a good position and can sustain an effort to the finish. Some riders can hold a sprint for longer than others, and will start early to try to make their opponent fatigue before the finish. Others have an insanely fast but shorter sprint, and will try to hold off on making an effort as long as possible.
What kind of speeds and powers do these riders hit? Let's take a look at a file from a rider who won a World Cup in this event (although this file is from a different World Cup).
First, let's look at the flying 200m qualification ride:
You can see that the biggest effort was made just before the beginning of the 200m, to get the speed and cadence up to their peak before the effort began
The powers and speeds these riders hit are incredible, but what is most impressive is their control over their efforts and their bike. Track sprinters have some of the best bike skills around, and usually maintain control of their bike even when there is contact with the other rider at speeds around 70km/hr.