By Nigel Wynn
The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has announced a raft of changes to track events to "create more spectator-friendly racing".
As part of the changes, the multi-discipline omnium track event has been radically overhauled, with the number of included events dropping from six to four as all individual, timed rounds are dropped. The omnium will also take place all on one day, rather than over two days as it currently does.
The UCI confirmed the previously rumoured changes after a meeting of its Management Committee at the 2016 Road World Championships in Doha, Qatar, this week. Several changes have also been made to other track events.
The individual pursuit, flying lap and time trial rounds have all gone. Instead, the four events making up the omnium are all bunch races: the existing scratch race, elimination race and points race are joined by a new round, the tempo race.
The tempo race is a short-distance event where riders are required to sprint every lap.
The format has already been trialled at the 3 Jours d’Aigle event in Switzerland last week, and was won by Great Britain's Mark Stewart.
The UCI said in a statement: "The review focused on the UCI Track Cycling World Cup and Track Cycling World Championships, with a view to improving the competition narrative and creating even more spectator-friendly racing."
In addition to changes to the omnium, a women's Madison event will be introduced to the Track World Championships to join the existing men's event. Madison regulations have also been altered for both men's and women's event so that the number of points for gaining a lap and the ten-lap sprint are the same as the points race.
"Coherence between the Madison and the Points Race will make both easier to understand for spectators," said the UCI.
Qualifying rounds of the team pursuit will now feature two teams on the track at once, rather than qualifying alone. This is to "streamline the qualification process". Finals for places below fourth have also been scrapped.
There are also changes to the sprint disciplines. The keirin sprint distance is increased to three laps and the rules relating to overtaking the derny pace bike have been clarified – something which affected the Rio 2016 Olympic Games event.
The kilometre and 500 metre time trials will see two riders qualifying on the track at the same time, rather than singly.
The team sprint will now feature a first round – something which is already in place in the Olympics team sprint. The UCI says that it has also clarified the rules relating to disqualification and false starts.
UCI president Brian Cookson said: "While it is important that we safeguard the essence of our cycling disciplines, we also need to be brave and embrace change in order to give our sport real meaning to those who are watching live or on screens across the world.
"The changes announced today show that we are moving with the times to ensure that our disciplines are presented in the most compelling way possible, and are rooted in the desire to attract and inspire even more fans into cycling."
Speaking to Cycling Weekly last week about the changes to the omnium, Great Britain track endurance coach Heiko Salzwedel said: "“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]."
The omnium was only introduced in 2007 at the Track World Championships, with a five-round format. The number of rounds was upped to six at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
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