Further changes to Olympic track cycling hit sprinting nations

Chris Hoy Jason Kenny Gold silver Olympics 2008

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......

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Simon Richardson
Simon Richardson

Editor of Cycling Weekly magazine, Simon has been working at the title since 2001. He fell in love with cycling when channel surfing in 1989 and happening across the greatest ever edition of the Tour de France. He's been a Greg LeMond fan ever since. He started racing in 1995 when moving to university in North Wales gave him more time to train and some amazing roads to train on. He raced domestically for several years, riding everything from Surrey leagues to time trials, track and even a few Premier Calendars. In 2000 he spent one season racing in Belgium with the Kingsnorth International Wheelers. 

Since working for Cycling Weekly he has written product reviews, fitness features, pro interviews, race coverage and news. He has covered the Tour de France more times than he can remember along with two Olympic Games and many other international and UK domestic races. He can still be seen at his club's evening races through the summer but he still hasn't completed the CW5000 challenge!


Road bike: Pinarello K8S with Shimano Dura Ace

TT bike: Specialized Venge road bike with FFWD wheels and Easton Attack TT bars

Gravel bike: N/A

Training bike: Rourke custom hand made with Reynolds 853 steel