Hoy or Kenny for the watered down Olympic sprint competition?

The new rule brought in for the London 2012 Olympics that each nation can only enter one rider in the sprint events, not only gives the British Cycling selectors a headache, it will water down the men’s field competing in London.

British Cycling’s selection panel, made up of performance director Dave Brailsford, head coach Shane Sutton and other coaches will have to decide whether or not to put Sir Chris Hoy or Jason Kenny in the men’s sprint.

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Hoy will ride the keirin and both will be in the team sprint trio – but who rides the sprint will go down to the wire. Brailsford refused to say when the decision will be made, and seems torn over how long to leave it.

“We’ll go back and look at a lot of data. If you select now then the positive is the riders know what they’re doing, they can maybe train a little more specifically for what they’ve got coming up.” He said.

“The downside of selecting now is in 16 weeks, your form [might dip]. Form is what’s going to make a difference here. And that’s sometimes difficult to predict.

“You want the fastest guy on the line. You want to [decide] late for form but early for clarity of purpose. We’re blessed in that we’ve got some world class with nothing to chose between them.”

Kenny beat Hoy in Melbourne, but Hoy had come out on top on three previous races that made up the five selection events.

Whoever rides the sprint in London will be virtually guaranteed a medal as many of the best riders in the world won’t be there (thanks to the rule that takes out the second and third riders from nations that have them) making the competition something of a damp squib after the fireworks we witnessed in Melbourne.

As Sir Chris Hoy said, the sprint competition two weeks ago was perhaps the greatest ever, with 10 riders going under 10 seconds in qualification. In Manchester four years ago only Frenchman Kevin Sireau went that fast. Last year in Apeldoorn no rider went under 10 seconds.

Only 18 sprinters will ride in London. Below are the qualification results from Melbourne, with the second, third and fourth riders from the nations that have them crossed out.

If applied to Olympic selection (it’s a bit more complicated than this, but this gives an idea) it would mean Puerta Fabian of Colombia, only good enough for 38th place, would qualify.

In total, eight riders who weren’t good enough to qualify for the match sprinting in Melbourne would make it into the Olympic competition, and five of the top 10 won’t even be there. Look at the riders who aren’t crossed out and there are really only three, perhaps four potential winners.

Men’s sprint qualifying in Melbourne
1. Grégory Baugé (Fra) 9.854
2. Robert Förstemann (Ger) 9.873
3. Kevin Sireau (Fra) 9.893
4. Chris Hoy (GBr) 9.902
5. Matthew Glaetzer (Aus) 9.902
6. Jason Kenny (GBr) 9.953
7. Edward Dawkins (NZl) 9.963
8. Shane Perkins (Aus) 9.965
9. Mickaël Bourgain (Fra) 9.966
10. Stefan Boetticher (Ger) 9.983
11. Seiichiro Nakagawa (Jpn) 10.003
12. Matthew Archibald (NZl) 10.034
13. Scott Sunderland (Aus) 10.040
14. Miao Zhang (Chn) 10.061
15. Hersony Canelon (Ven) 10.077
16. Rene Enders (Ger) 10.077
17. Juan Peralta (Esp) 10.101
18. Michael Blatchford (USA) 10.118
19. Sam Webster (NZl) 10.122
20. Kazunari Watanabe (Jpn) 10.159
21. Ethan Mitchell (NZl) 10.163
22. Hodei Mazquiaran (Esp) 10.163
23. Matt Crampton (GBr) 10.167
24. Charlie Conord (Fra) 10.169
25. Nikita Shurshin (Rus) 10.178
26. Damian Zielinski (Pol) 10.192
27. Azizulhasni Awang (Mas) 10.193
28. Kazuki Amagai (Jpn) 10.196
29. Roy Van Den Berg (Ned) 10.203
30. Denis Dmitriev (Rus) 10.209
31. Yudai Nitta (Jpn) 10.214
32. Bernard Esterhuizen (RSA) 10.234
33. Lei Zhang (Chn) 10.239
34. Joseph Veloce (Can) 10.281
35. Kevin Mansker (USA) 10.300
36. Denis Spicka (Cze) 10.310
37. Sergey Borisov (Rus) 10.311
38. Puerta Fabian (Col) 10.334

This article first appeared in the April 12 edition of Cycling Weekly.