The drag force acting on a cyclist (or indeed any object) is defined as follows;
Air density reduces as temperature increases, as shown in figure 1. Therefore, raising the temperature inside the velodrome will reduce the drag force acting on the rider, allowing them to go faster. Figure 1 shows how temperature effects the drag acting on a track cyclist using typical values for the area and drag coefficient.
Reducing the resistive force acting a cyclist will give the greatest time advantage on longer distance events, such as the individual pursuit which is raced over 4 km. An in house track cycling research tool, developed by Dr Rich Lukes, was used to predict the effect of increasing the air temperature in the individual pursuit. Increasing the temperature from 20 degrees to 25 degrees produced a time advantage of approximatley 1.4 s over 4 km. The interesting thing to note is, the higher temperature will aid all athletes in breaking records, whilst giving them no advantage over their immediate competitors.
Sports engineers are renowned for giving individual athletes or teams an advantage by improving their equipment. The engineers behind the 2012 velodrome have gone a step further by building a facility which should increase the performance of all competitors. In particular, the air temperature inside the velodrome will be higher than usual to reduce the drag force acting on the cyclists. Increasing the temperature from 20 degrees to 25 degrees would give a world-class cyclist a performance advantage of approximately 1.4 s over 4 km. My prediction, records will be broken in the velodrome in 2o12, particularly in the longer distance events.