Let's talk about: The Olympics (Match Sprint)

Sprint: To race or move at full speed (Dictionary.com)

Given the above definition, it shouldn’t surprise you that the fastest cyclists in a match sprint reach speeds as high as 70 km/h. Watching the event may leave you confused - it looks like they are fighting to lose the race. The sprint shown below looks, at times, like a slow-cycling event:

What’s happening here is that being in second-place, right behind the leader, reduces drag (friction with the air) by quite a large amount - around 30%. Less drag means you cannot just race at full speed from the start. If you did, the cyclist in second-place would need to use less energy and can pull ahead in the final stretch to clinch first place. This adds another element to the race - the element of surprise. The leader has to constantly look behind to spot exactly when the other cyclist is going to “make his move”. Miss that moment, and your race may be done, like Chris Hoy learned here. Theo Bos, the winning cyclist, tried that again, but it didn’t work as well.

These reasons make for an interesting, if somewhat unusual, event with cyclists going as far as stopping their cycles on track (the cycles have no brakes) in an effort to get second-place!