How Does Scoring Work In Cycling?

how does scoring work in cycling

The world of professional cycling is vast and varied, with different events requiring extremely different equipment, skill sets, and scoring criteria. For the majority of cycling competitions, as you might expect, speed is the name of the game, but there are many structural differences in the competition formats. Below, we’ll explore some of the scoring rules for different cycling categories, from the Olympics, to the major cycling races, and beyond.

How Is Cycling Scored

Since most cycling events are races, scoring in cycling is fairly simple, in that the cyclist who finishes the race first is declared the winner. On major cycling tours, cyclists may win points for placing in certain races or events, but the main scoring system is based on winning races. However, in other types of competitions, such as mountain biking, points-based scoring is used to judge cyclists based on criteria such as their route and techniques. Below, we will break down cycling scoring in more detail based on three categories: road racing, track events, and mountain biking.

Road Racing

cycling road racing

Road racing may be what first comes to mind when you think of professional cycling, with major events like the Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia, the Vuelta a España, and the Tour of Flanders attracting top cyclists from around the world. In these events, cyclists compete in teams, but also as individuals, often through many days and different stages of a single race.


For most road races, scoring is simply based on placement. In the Tour de France, the winner of the coveted Yellow Jersey is the cyclist with the shortest cumulative time at the end of the race. But aside from the general classification, there are other incentives for climbers and sprinters.

The Polka Dot Jersey is awarded to the cyclist who makes it to the top of categorized mountains quickest, and the Green Jersey goes to the best sprinter, who earns points for crossing the finish line on various stages within the first 15 riders. There is also the team classification, which is somewhat less sought-after, but tallies the best three times of the riders on any given team to award the fastest team overall. 

Olympic Road Racing

Olympic road racing is somewhat less convoluted, with no preliminary events, only a men’s and women’s final. Cyclists compete in a 151.6 and 93.1-mile-long race, respectively, and medals are awarded to the first three riders to cross the finish line. Another category, called the Time Trials, is a shorter, 13.7-mile race suited for sprinters, which offers another opportunity to collect gold, silver, and bronze for the three fastest times.

Track Events

Cycling Track Events

Track Events take place on a circular track, and are broken down into two categories: sprints, and endurance. Sprints are shorter and require a concerted burst of strength and energy, typically favoring stockier more muscular riders. Endurance events are longer in length and require more stamina. These events require riders closer in conditioning to road cyclists.


In a sprint, all cyclists often begin together in a mass start and ride behind a pacing motorcycle that brings them up to speed before peeling off before the last couple of laps. In this final, breakneck several-hundred meters, cyclists race to be first across the finish line.

Olympic Track Cycling

At the Olympics, cyclists compete in individual sprints, team sprints, individual and team pursuits, the Keiran, the Omnium, and the Madison. Cyclists progress through several elimination rounds, quarter, semi-finals, and finals, gaining points by lapping their opponents or leading sprints that occur every lap after the first four.

Mountain Biking

mountain biking

Mountain biking refers to off-road cycling that requires riders to navigate rocky uneven terrain and landscapes of varying difficulty. Different kinds of races require different levels of navigation and endurance. The Olympics includes cross-country mountain biking, where cyclists ride about a 2.5-mile course that includes sharp turns, jumps, and sudden changes in elevation on a dirt track. The first three riders to cross the finish line receive medals.

Timed Races

Mountain biking categories like cross country, short-track cross country, downhill, and slalom races all determine their winners by the best time. Whether riders all start the course simultaneously, staggered by their ranks, or in smaller groups to be eliminated tournament style after different rounds, the cyclist to complete the course in the quickest time is the winner.


The exception to these scoring rules is the freeride. In mountain biking, the freeride is a competition of style and execution rather than a race to the finish line. There are typically many ways to complete the course, and cyclists accrue points based on a combination of the difficulty of the routes they choose, the time it takes them to complete the course, and the difficulty level of their tricks and riding technique.

Freeride Scoring Categories

A typical scoring breakdown on the Freeride World Tour instructs judges to award 0 to 100 points for rides based on the following five categories:

  • Difficulty: The category judges how difficult the cyclist’s chosen path was to navigate, with more points for a more difficult path.
  • Control: This category judges how much control the rider exerted over their bicycle.
  • Fluidity: This category judges how fluidly a rider completed their course, with more points for a smoother ride with fewer stops and starts.  
  • Jumps: This category judges the number and quality of jumps a biker landed
  • Technique: This category judges the techniques a biker used while on their ride.


How do you score points in cycling?

The landscape of cycling is varied, but for the most part, cyclists are judged by their times, whether overall or in stages. Cyclists earn points by leading sprints, or placing in the top group of riders in any given stage of the race. The first rider to cross the finish line, or to complete the course or track in the shortest amount of time is the winner. Exceptions to this include mountain bike and BMX freerides which are judged more on style and execution of tricks.