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The UCI has confirmed that the format of the omnium competition at this year's World Track Championships in Copenhagen will not be the new six-event programme that has been ratified for the 2012 Olympic Games.
The changes to the track programme for the London Olympics have not been entirely popular. Out go the individual pursuits, points races and Madison, in come Keirin and team sprint races for women. But the most controversial move has been to introduce the omnium.
At World Championship level, the omnium currently consists of five disciplines. For men there is a 200m sprint, a 7.5km scratch race, a 3km individual pursuit, a 15km points race and a 1km time trial. For women the distances are shorter. Each rider's placings in the separate events are added together and the rider with the lowest total wins. In Copenhagen next month, the women's omnium will be held on the Saturday, with the men's competition on the Sunday, with all five events taking place on the same day.
But the omnium programme for the London Games will be different. The UCI announced late last year that the omnium at the London 2012 would consist of six events and would run over duration of the track programme. The distances have been increased too, ensuring the event favours endurance riders, who miss out most thanks to the removal of the individual pursuit and points races.
In London, 24 riders will contest the omnium events, consisting of a 250-metre time flying lap time trial, a 30km points race (20km for women), a 4km pursuit (3km for women), a 15km scratch race (10km for women) and a kilometre time trial (500m) and an elimination race.
Better known in the UK as the Devil or Devil Takes the Hindmost, the elimination is a bunch race. Every two laps the last rider over the line is eliminated until the field is whittled down to one.
A UCI spokesman confirmed to Cycling Weekly that the current omnium format will be run 'for the last time' in Copenhagen, indicating the Olympic programme will be introduced at the 2011 Worlds in Appeldoorn, Holland. And later this year the UCI will discuss the possibility of including the omnium, in some format or other, in World Cup events from the start of the 2010-2011 track season.
With the Games two and a half years away, time is running out for riders to get to grips with the omnium. Even if the Olympic omnium format is adopted for the World Cups from now on, there are still fewer than a dozen opportunities to race the event at the top level. And the UCI is yet to confirm how riders will qualify for their Olympic places.
The event was introduced at the 2007 World Championships in Majorca, when Alois Kankovsky of the Czech Republic won gold. New Zealand's Hayden Godfrey won in Manchester in 2008 and Leigh Howard of Australia was the champion in Poland last year. The women's omnium was first held at Pruszkow in 2009. Josephine Tomic of Australia won the rainbow jersey.
2010 WORLD TRACK CHAMPIONSHIPS SCHEDULE
Wednesday, March 24
Men's points race
Women's individual pursuit
Men's team sprint
Thursday, March 25
Men's scratch race
Women's team sprint
Men's individual pursuit
Women's team pursuit
Friday, March 26
Men's team pursuit
Women's scratch race
Saturday, March 27
Women's Omnium (sprint, scratch race, pursuit, points race, 500m)
Sunday, March 28
Men's Omnium (sprint, scratch race, pursuit, points race, 1km)
Women's points race
CW's Dummies Guide To... Track Racing
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Sports journalist Lionel Birnie has written professionally for Sunday Times, Procycling and of course Cycling Weekly. He is also an author, publisher, and co-founder of The Cycling Podcast. His first experience covering the Tour de France came in 1999, and he has presented The Cycling Podcast with Richard Moore and Daniel Friebe since 2013. He founded Peloton Publishing in 2010 and has ghostwritten and published the autobiography of Sean Kelly, as well as a number of other sports icons.
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