Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter January 17, 2014

To lead or not to lead: analysis of the sprint in track cycling

  • Joanne Moffatt , Phil Scarf EMAIL logo , Louis Passfield , Ian G. McHale and Kui Zhang


This paper uses a statistical analysis of match sprint outcomes to guide tactical decisions in this highly tactical contest and to provide competitors and coaches with a potential, marginal gain. Logistic regression models are developed to predict the probability of the leading rider winning at different points of the race, based on how the race proceeds up to each point. Key tactics are successfully identified from the models, including how the leading rider might hold the lead and how the following rider might optimize overtaking.

Corresponding author: Phil Scarf, Salford Business School, University of Salford, Salford, M5 4WT, UK, e-mail:


This work has been supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council of the UK, under grant number EP/F005792/1. We are grateful for the cooperation of the English Institute for Sport for use of the data and the help of Paul Barrett, Mike Hughes and Duncan Locke, and Jan Van Eijden of British Cycling.


Allsopp, P. E. and Stephen R. Clarke. 2004. “Rating Teams and Analysing Outcomes in One-Day and Test Cricket.”Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A 167: 657–667.10.1111/j.1467-985X.2004.00505.xSearch in Google Scholar

Atkinson, G., R. Davison, A. Jeukendrup, and L. Passfield. 2003. “Science and Cycling: Current Knowledge and Future Directions for Research.” Journal of Sports Sciences 21:767–787.10.1080/0264041031000102097Search in Google Scholar PubMed

Atkinson, G., O. Peacock, and L. Passfield. 2007. “Variable versus Constant Power Strategies During Cycling Time-Trials: Prediction of Time Savings Using an Up-to-Date Mathematical Model.” Journal of Sports Sciences, 25: 1001–1009.10.1080/02640410600944709Search in Google Scholar PubMed

Bedford, A. and J. Baglin. 2009. “Evaluating Performance of an Ice Hokey Team Using Interactive Phases of Play.” IMA Journal of Management Mathematics 20: 159–166.10.1093/imaman/dpn019Search in Google Scholar

Craig, N. P. and K. I. Norton. 2001. “Characteristics of Track Cycling.” Sports Medicine 31: 457–468.10.2165/00007256-200131070-00001Search in Google Scholar PubMed

de Koning, J. J., C. Foster, A. Bakkum, S. Kloppenburg, C. Thiel, et al. 2011. “Regulation of Pacing Strategy during Athletic Competition.” PLoS One 6(1):e15863. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0015863.10.1371/journal.pone.0015863Search in Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Central

Dobson, A. J. and A. G. Barnett. 2008. An Introduction to Generalized Linear Models. London: CRC Press.10.1201/9780367807849Search in Google Scholar

Fearing, D., J. Acimovic, and S. Graves. 2011. “How to Catch a Tiger: Understanding Putting Performance on the PGA TOUR.” Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports 7(1).10.2202/1559-0410.1268Search in Google Scholar

Gramacy, R., S. Jensen, and M. Taddy. 2013. “Estimating Player Contribution in Hockey with Regularized Logistic Regression.” Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports 9: 97–111.10.1515/jqas-2012-0001Search in Google Scholar

Leitner, C., A. Zeileis, and K. Hornik. 2011. “Bookmaker Concensus and Agreement for the UEFA Champions League.” IMA Journal of Management Mathematics 22: 183–194.10.1093/imaman/dpq016Search in Google Scholar

Magnus, J. and F. Klaassen. 2008. Myths in Tennis. Statistical Thinking in Sports. edited by J. Albert and R. H. Koning. Chapman & Hall/CRC (Taylor & Francis Group), pp. 217–240.Search in Google Scholar

McHale, I. and M. Asif. 2013. “Modelling One Day International Cricket Match Outcomes in Play.” Submitted for publication.Search in Google Scholar

Moffatt, J., P. Scarf, K. Zhang, L. Passfield, and I. Mchale. 2009. An analysis of strategy in the sprint cycle race in track cycling. Proceedings of the I.M.A. 2nd International Conference on Mathematics in Sport. Groningen, The Netherlands: University of Groningen, pp. 106–112.Search in Google Scholar

Nagelkerke, N. J. D. 1991. “A Note on a General Definition of the Coefficient of Determination.” Biometrika 78: 691–692.10.1093/biomet/78.3.691Search in Google Scholar

Scarf, P. A. and S. Akhtar. 2011. “An Analysis of Strategy in the First Three Innings in Test Cricket: Declaration and The Follow-On.” Journal of the Operational Research Society 62: 1931–1940.10.1057/jors.2010.169Search in Google Scholar

Scarf, P. A. and X. Shi. 2005. “Modelling Match Outcomes and Decision Support for Setting a Final Innings Target in Test Cricket.” IMA Journal Management Mathematics 16: 161–178.10.1093/imaman/dpi010Search in Google Scholar

Scarf P. A., X. Shi, and S. Akhtar. 2011. “The Distribution of Runs Scored and Batting Strategy in Test Cricket.” Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series A 174: 471–497.10.1111/j.1467-985X.2010.00672.xSearch in Google Scholar

Schwertman, N. C., K. L. Schenk, and B. C. Holbrook. 1996. “More Probability Models for the NCAA Regional Basketball Tournaments.” The American Statistician, 50: 34–38.Search in Google Scholar

Thomas, K., M. R. Stone, K. G. Thompson, A. S. Gibson, and L. Ansley. 2012. “The Effect of Self- Even- and Variable-Pacing Strategies on the Physiological and Perceptual Response to Cycling.” European Journal of Applied Physiology 112: 3069–3078.10.1007/s00421-011-2281-9Search in Google Scholar PubMed

Tissot. 2009. Flying times. in Google Scholar

UCI. 2009. Cycling. in Google Scholar

Yeung, S. S., E. W. Yeung, and T. W. Wong. 2001. “Marathon Finishers and Non-finishers Characteristics: A Preamble to Success.” Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 41: 170–176.Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2014-1-17
Published in Print: 2014-6-1

©2014 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston

Downloaded on 6.6.2023 from
Scroll to top button