The men's individual pursuit event in cycling at the 2004 Summer Olympics consisted of matches between two cyclists. The riders would start at opposite ends of the track. Each had 16 laps (4 kilometres) in which to catch the other cyclist. If neither was caught before one had gone 16 laps, the times for the distance were used to determine the victor. In the thirteen matches of the 2004 event, no cyclist was lapped.
The sixteen riders raced against each other in matches of two. Qualification for the next round was not based on who won those matches, however. The cyclists with the eight fastest times advanced, regardless of whether they won or lost their match.
In the first round of actual match competition, cyclists were seeded into matches based on their times from the qualifying round. The fastest cyclist faced the eighth-fastest, the second-fastest faced the third, and so forth. Winners advanced to the finals while losers in each match received a final ranking based on their time in the round.
Cyclists were again re-seeded, this time based on their times in the match round. The third- and fourth-fastest riders faced off in the bronze medal match, while the fastest two riders competed for the gold and silver medals.
In a reversal of the 2002 Commonwealth Games final, where McGee had caught Wiggins before the end, the Brit took the title to make up for the disappointment of his team-mate losing the bronze medal match.