Rob Hayles and Peter Kennaugh took seventh place in the Madison at the Los Angeles World Cup ? to add another building block in the bid to win a place for Great Britain at the Olympics in Beijing.
Each rider earned 60 precious UCI ranking points in the qualification race.
Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish have emerged as the ?A? team for Britain since they made their first competitive appearance together at the Ghent Six-Day in November.
A silver medal in the Beijing World Cup in December confirmed the two High Road Sports riders are Britain?s best hope of a Madison medal when they return to the Chinese capital in August.
But the situation is not straightforward as Wiggins and Cavendish have to balance their Olympic ambitions with their trade team responsibilities. They have only two opportunities to add to their own points totals ? at the hastily rescheduled national championship on March 2 and at the World Championships.
This week, instead of flying to Los Angeles to try to score more points in the Madison to ensure Great Britain finish in the top 13 of the UCI?s world rankings at the end of March and guarantee their Olympic spot, they were training with their professional team in Majorca.
And instead of racing at the Copenhagen World Cup next month they will be at the Tour of California.
Qualification for the Olympics is based on a national ranking which takes the aggregate points total of the three highest-scoring riders. Wiggins and Cavendish each have 142 points. Kennaugh (pictured) is now Britain?s third-placed rider with 110.
British Cycling?s strategy is to try to score as many points as possible, taking into account the restrictions they face.
The dream scenario would be that High Road would have released Wiggins and Cavendish to ride the Los Angeles and Copenhagen World Cups ? but that simply wasn?t going to happen.
So it has to be done another way. Logically, it would make sense to enter Kennaugh and Hayles again in Copenhagen to try to add to Kennaugh?s total.
Assuming Wiggins and Cavendish can score points at the national championship (where 35 points are on offer to each rider in the winning team) and the World Championships (where victory earns automatic Olympic qualification) the burden could now rest on Kennaugh’s young shoulders.
The big question is whether 110 points is going to be enough for the third-placed scoring rider to clinch Britain’s place in the top 13.
British Cycling?s Doug Dailey said: ?It?s going to be very close. We need to finish in the top 13 of the rankings as a nation or win the World Championships. It?s dangerous to look at previous years and think ?yes, that?ll be enough, we?re in? because you could decide on a mininum points total and find it?s not enough. The situation is changing so quickly.?
Hayles and Kennaugh?s seventh place was crucial though. Although it was logical to pair 18-year-old Kennaugh, as Britain?s third-best ranked Madison rider, with the experienced Hayles it was still a gamble.
?It was quite a brave pairing but they did well. They finished seventh and beat some of the teams that are crowding them in the national ranking,? added Dailey.
Now British Cycling will wait for the latest UCI rankings to be released to see exactly where they stand before finalising the strategy for the Copenhagen World Cup.
The rankings are not updated regularly and each time they are, there are errors and omissions.
?We spot several things in the rankings so we have to be extremely vigilant, especially when qualification is so tight,? said Dailey.
Dailey also defended the decision to move the 2008 National Madison Championship to March 2 so it falls within the qualification period for the Olympics.
?We are playing the rules to the limit,? he said. ?If we thought we were doing anything wrong we would not be doing it. There is nothing to say we cannot hold the championships when we like.?
In theory the 2007 championships could be held on December 31, with the 2008 championships on January 1.
Although there is no written rule in the UCI?s track regulations to cover whether one or both events should count towards Olympic qualification the precedent set by the road rankings is that only the most recent would count.
|THE BIG QUESTIONS|
Who qualifies for the Olympic Madison?
The top 13 nations in the UCI?s Madison ranking at the end of March qualify. The World Cup overall winners and world champions also qualify. If either of those nations are also in the top 13, the 14th and 15th teams could qualify.
How do those rankings work?
Points are scored at all international Madison events. Each country?s best three riders’ points are added together to make a national ranking.
Where are Britain ranked now?
Before the Los Angeles World Cup, Britain were 14th, one place outside automatic qualification. But those rankings were released before Christmas. The latest rankings are expected to be released by the end of this week. It?s very complicated to add up all the points earned at every Madison race in the world, but there?s a strong chance Britain have sneaked into 13th place by now.
If qualification for the Madison was always looking so tight why didn?t British Cycling insist Cavendish and Wiggins rode all the World Cups?
In an ideal world that would have happened but British Cycling has to strike a balancing act with the trade teams. At the end of the day, High Road pays their wages and wants a return on that investment. British Cycling cannot call on them whenever they please, there has to be compromise. And the Los Angeles and Copenhagen World Cups fell at important times for High Road.
Isn?t it a bit unfair on the domestic riders to switch the National Championships to enable Wiggins and Cavendish to ride?
You certainly could look at it that way. Yes, the domestic riders have much less time to prepare properly but look at the bigger picture. Do we want a British team in the Olympics or not? Last year the championships were postponed because of rain and eventually held in Scunthorpe as part of an Omnium meeting. Eight teams took part. This year it?ll be in Manchester and it?s a chance for those riders to race against Wiggins and Cavendish.
How many teams can Britain field in the World Championship Madison?
Just one. Wiggins and Cavendish will ride, all being well, to try to cement their place.