The Union Cycliste International (UCI) yesterday announced more sweeping changes to the Olympic track cycling programme. Having already drastically altered the events on the schedule, the sport’s governing body has now changed the qualification system and the national quota per event.

At the London Olympics in 2012 each competing country will only be allowed to enter one athlete in the men’s and women’s individual sprint and Keirin. The ruling also covers the new omnium event to be introduced at the London Games.

Not only could this ruling affect how British Cycling approach their funding allocation, and the number of athletes on the lottery-funded programme, it will seriously water down the sprint events at the Games in 2012.

By limiting all countries to one rider per sprint event the UCI has seen to it that track sprinting is no longer the best riders competing against one another. Great Britain, France, Germany, Australia, Japan and the Netherlands all had two riders in the top 18 of the sprint qualifying round in Beijing. (The top 18 go through to the knock-out rounds.)

The new system would effectively eliminate the second fastest riders from each of those countries, therefore taking six of the best riders in the world out of the competition. Doing this results in six slower riders moving up in to the qualifying spots and in to the knock-out round.

In Beijing, Daniel Novikov of Estonia qualified slowest (in 21st spot) with a 200m tt time of 11.187 seconds – not a world class time by any means. Now he, along with three even slower riders, will qualify for the Olympic sprint competition.

Has the change come about as a result of Great Britain’s dominance? Maybe. In both the men’s sprint and keirin GB won both gold and silver in Beijing, but they’re not the only nation to suffer. France has a strong sprinting line-up while those events are the only ones the Germans are still competitive in.

Whatever the reason, the sprint and keirin events will no longer see the best riders against the best riders, as the Olympics should be, but a second rate competition ridden by a larger spread of riders from around the world. The world title will now be the harder competition to win.

More later……

  • Peter Batten

    Well done Brian Cookson for a particularly pathetic response on 5 Live last night . If this is the man we leave in charge of dealing with McQuaid then no wonder they’ve made this ridiculous decision. Wake Up Cookson !

  • Daniel Sibley

    UCI = Utterly Clueless Idiots!

    Petition anyone?

  • Ken Evans

    I think the blazers in the UCI need psychiatric help,
    this nonsense is getting beyond a joke.

    What if a rider crashes, (or is deliberately crashed into),
    does that mean that nation has no competitors in that event.

    McQuaid should be replaced by someone better,
    maybe BC has someone suitable ?

  • Manni

    Australia, France, Germany and Japan will be affected too (I don’t think the Dutch are the emergent force they seemed to be). What is it that McQuaid and his keystone kops in Aigle really want? Only cyclists from Latin America, Africa, China and, er, Ireland racing on bikes bought from Asda? What the hell is an ’emerging nation’ anyway? GB was in the track cycling wilderness until Mike Burrows, Chris Boardman and Graham Obree showed up. Is this what you do once an ’emerging nation’ has ’emerged’?

  • Rob Hall

    A boycott of the Olympics is the only answer.
    It’s clear that the UCI dont like the fact that GB are so strong and are trying to level the playing field for the rest.
    I was looking forward to watching the Olympic events(what’s left of them) and maybe going to see some of them, out of principle I don’t think I will bother.

  • Mel Cassell

    Hear Hear Norman – it’s getting as bad as the Eurovision Song contest (kick the brits)
    They can’t stand us being good at something.
    What with the rule changes re equipment (although I must admit to liking this in principle – makes for a level playing field) and now this. I suppose it was OK when the French were dominating sprinting.
    As you rightly say, the other nations are improving – so much so, that we may not have had all our own way in London anyway.

  • Thomas

    What rationale did the UCI give for this tragic decision? With this one act the UCI has emasculated the sport of Cycling by forcing a competition of such farce -Uganda vs UK anyone?- that the gold medal is rendered in lard.

  • Nigel Scales

    Perhaps the out-of-competition drugs teating regime should be extended to include the bureaucrats who are dreaming up these increasingly bizarre ideas. As if the earlier decisions regarding Olympic cycling events weren’t bizarre enough (drop the individual pursuit for goodness sake??) this really takes the biscuit!

    How could they possibly think reducing the quality of the fields for the Olympics would be a good thing? And who actually holds these people to account?

  • James Hartridge

    Another nail in the coffin of competitive Olympic track cycling. Obviously the UCI is trying to downgrade the importance of the Olympic cycle to further it’s own world title series. Looks like the Team Sky project was a shrewd move on BCs part.

  • Graham Haller

    So when are swimmings governing body s going to step in and chage the rules to prevent Michael Phelps/Team USA from winning more than one meddle in each event?

  • keith warmington

    I agree this is an absolute scandal. The UCI’s decision seems pejorative to say the least .. No doubt there’ll be more guff from Pat McQuaid about it’s the way forward for the sport.: he often seems to be putting sporting interests second to the politics .

  • Martin Littlewood

    It would be less hard to take if this sort of decision was taken ‘across the board’ i.e for other sports as well. Swimming springs to mind, where not only do we regularly see the same country getting gold, silver and bronze in the same event, but individuals (Mark Spitz!) getting anything up to 7 golds by themselves. Will it not lead to a lot more athletes taking part (not necessarily a bad thing in itself) but surely having to transport more athletes and more equipment is going to make even the established nations think twice about how many participants they select in these difficult economic times.

  • Roger Hughes

    This really has to be a step too far.
    To put it into an athletics perspective it would mean Jamaica only being able to select either Usain Bolt or Asafa Powell for the 100m.

    So its either:
    Chris Hoy or Jason Kenny.
    Gregory Bauge or Kevin Sireau.
    Robert Bartko or Robert Förstemann

    To win a world championships will become harder to win than an Olympic gold.


    Cynics would perhaps suggest that Pat McQuaid still bears a grudge after being banned from the 1976 Olympics for being a naughty boy.

  • Mike Lucas

    The UCI seem determined to wreck cycling as a sport thather than expand and promote it.

    Also I still do not see why the mens track programe at the Olympics has been reduced. The velodrome is only used for cycling so what diference would it make if there were MORE cycling events, not less?
    I dont recall any swimming events being dropped cos sync swimming was introduced. Volleyball did not suffer when the joke event “beach volleyball” was put in.
    What next, five a side football? three a side beach football?

  • Marc

    Many other sports are actually allowed 3 competitors – Table Tennis springs to mend, where I believe Chinese competitors took all 3 medals in most events.

    Its a ridiculous decision by the UCI. How can the Olympics be the pinnacle when there will be a stronger field at the World Championships

  • Paul Rule

    I think drug testing should be extended to the members of the UCI who seem to be doing their utmost to wreck Olympic cycling. As a new convert to track cycling, everything that attracts me to it is being removed. I was really looking forward to seeing the Madison live in my own back yard, but they axed that that for a boring omnium, and now I’m not even going to be able see the Worlds best riders competing against each other.

    I’m not worried the we will get less medals, but I’m not going to spend any money buying tickets to watch such a devalued event. This would never happen in other Olympic sports, just imaging the 100 and 200m sprints with only one US and one Jamaican in them, or the 5 and 10k races with just one Ethiopian and one Kenyan in them

  • norman saxby

    How can the UCI get away with this. In all other sports ae allowed their two best athletes in each dicipline The Olympic powers that be should not let this happen! Track cycling has become hugely popular since 2000, mostly due to Great Britain becoming so strong and getting as much publicity as the TdeF if not more. It is quite obvoius that GB have been targeted allthough most of the other countries have become much stronger as a result.It is about time the cycling world stood up and put a stop to their dictatorship once and for all. The Mcquaid Mafia must be stopped!
    Norman Saxby,
    Kenton Road Club