The omnium could be about to get a major overhaul as the UCI is considering revamping the multi-discipline Olympic track event, which would see it change from six events to four, with all individual timed events removed.
The UCI’s Management Committee is due to make a decision on the change at the World Championships in Doha next week.
Under the changes the omnium – in which Laura Trott is currently the double Olympic champion and Mark Cavendish won silver in Rio – would be held over one day rather than two, and consist of only four bunch events.
The individual pursuit, time trial and flying lap would all be removed, and instead would be made up of the scratch race, elimination race, points race and a new event, the tempo race.
The new race would see riders race over 10 kilometres. After five laps they sprint every lap, with the first rider across the line getting one point; any rider who gains a lap on the bunch gets four points.
While it follows a similar principal to the points race, it is held over a much shorter distance and requires riders to race at higher speeds and sprint every lap – hence the name.
The proposed new omnium format was used last week at the 3 Jours d’Aigle track race in Switzerland. Britain’s Mark Stewart and Oliver Wood finished first and second.
GB’s men’s endurance coach Heiko Salzwedel, who was in Switzerland, praised the potential changes.
“I welcome this very much,” he told Cycling Weekly. “It has taken all the boring parts of the omnium out, the timing events – who wants to see 250 metres [flying lap], who wants to see kilometre time trial, who wants to see four kilometres [individual pursuit], these events have been taken out.”
Salzwedel believes the new format minus the timed events is more reflective of what the omnium traditionally began as – an event to combine “endurance and speed”.
“When I was a school boy I was racing a very similar omnium format back in the old days, so it’s come back to the old traditional way,” he said.
Without the timed events to train for, Salzwedel believes riders would have more time to focus on other track disciplines. In the build up to the Rio Olympics, the coach admitted he was worried about how much preparation was required to get Cavendish ready for the timed events in the omnium. Ultimately, it was part of the reason the sprinter missed out on a potential place in the team pursuit because of it.
“This pace judgement or time trial stuff requires a lot of work and attention and a lot of time. We simply didn’t have the time with Mark, that’s why the team pursuit was not really an option for him.,” he continued.
“With the new format already in place we could have spent much more time with Mark focussing on team pursuit for instance.”
If approved, Salzwedel believed the new omnium format could be introduced almost immediately. The 3 Jours d’Aigle event last week, for instance, is a UCI ranked event and had UCI points on offer for riders.
The omnium first appeared in major competition at the Track World Championships in 2007 in a five-race format before being introduced as an Olympic discipline at London 2012 made up of six events.
The UCI confirmed to Cycling Weekly that potential changes to track cycling events will be discussed and voted on at a meeting of the management committee at the road World Championships but declined to comment on the nature of the changes up for discussion.