The team pursuit is a beautiful event. It’s simplicity – two teams on the track racing against each other over four kilometres – has seen it maintain its position as the blue riband event of endurance track cycling as other events have come and gone (especially from the Olympic program).
That simplicity was reflected in the event format, as the two fastest teams in qualifying went on to ride against each other in a gold medal final. The third and fourth fastest qualifiers would then ride for bronze. All teams below fourth were ordered by their qualifying times.
A different format was used in the Olympic program which added another round of racing, but still it was easy to follow.
So why has the UCI come up with a new and utterly baffling format for this key event?
Have a read of the below explanation (that is being printed on the results sheet in order to help us understand it) and see if you can make any sense of it.
The eight teams recording the best times in the qualifying shall be matched in the first round in the order as follows:
The team having obtained the 6th fastest time against the one having obtained the 7th fastest time.
The team having obtained the 5th fastest time against the one having obtained the 8th fastest time.
The team having obtained the 2nd fastest time against the one having obtained the 3rd fastest time.
The team having obtained the fastest time against the one having obtained the 4th fastest time.
All the teams from the first round shall dispute the finals. The rides shall be ridden in the inverse order to that stated below.
The winners of the last two heats in the first competition round shall ride the final for first and second places.
The remaining six teams shall be ranked according to their times from the first round and shall dispute the finals as follows:
The two fastest teams shall ride the final for 3rd and 4th places.
The next two fastest teams shall ride the final for 5th and 6th places.
The final two teams shall ride the final for 7th and 8th places.
I would try and explain that for you, but after three reads – and watching the competition here in London – I’m still struggling to understand it myself. I’m even more perplexed as to why the UCI would bring this in and add an un-needed level of complexity to an event that didn’t need changing.
What I do know is that the format has added another round of racing, but did we need it? It’s obviously confused the organisers as the fifth and sixth place ride offs (why do we need a ride off for fifth and sixth?) weren’t listed on the event program.
I hate to ever say that any bike race is boring, but with 22 men’s teams and 19 women’s teams entered it meant we had to endure seven hours of team pursuiting on day one of the London world cup. SEVEN HOURS! It was hard to maintain our interest for that long and there was a palpable drop-off in atmosphere as the night dragged on.
I will of course be asking the UCI to explain this. I’ll let you know what they say.