Riders concerned about the future of track racing
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Monday, October 19, 2009

Riders concerned about the future of track racing

by Conal Andrews at 8:45 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Track
 

British Olympic champions Bradley Wiggins and Rebecca Romero are amongst a growing group of riders who have serious concerns about the UCI and IOC plans to overhaul track cycling.

The UCI announced in recent weeks that it was studying its options in satisfying a new IOC requirement to provide an equal amount of races for men and women. Male riders had seven events in Beijing, compared to just three for women.

A decision is expected in December but speculation is rife that the individual pursuit, the points race and the madision will be slashed from the men’s programme, with the multi-event omnium taking its place. The women are expected to also gain an omnium competition as well as the team pursuit.

For the men, the changes will see some prestigious events being removed. The endurance riders are those which will be hit and, unsurprisingly, Wiggins is not impressed.

“They've changed the programme now, given the women a load of events," the Jayco Herald Sun Tour victor said to the Australian media. "It's a shame, it will probably end up killing off track endurance cycling.

“We're pawns in their game. We're just riders, it doesn't matter what we think."
Wiggins won gold in the individual and team pursuits in Beijing, while Romero did the same in the women’s individual pursuit. According to the Guardian newspaper, her coach Dan Hunt said that she is seriously thinking about giving up track cycling and may concentrate instead on the road.

"She is in cycling to win individual medals," said Hunt. "She's been in [rowing] crews before, so she is considering her options. But you wouldn't have to be a genius to figure out that the road time-trial would feature on our radar with regards to Rebecca."

With less than three years to go until the London Olympics, a change in the programme would be very disruptive for riders who have been targeting specific events for some time. One example is Ireland’s David O’Loughlin, who was second and third in World Cup individual pursuit events last year as well as sixth in the 2008 world championships.

O’Loughlin took up track cycling a couple of seasons ago and has been working methodically towards the London Olympics, where he hoped to take a medal.

“As far as I know it’s certain that the individual pursuit is gone,” he said. “You spend a few years of your life concentrating on something, building towards the next Olympics, and now it’s just gone. I can’t believe they will remove one of the key events.”

O’Loughlin currently lacks a big-money contract in cycling and relies on government grants to continue in the sport. In Ireland and elsewhere, those grants could well be threatened if Olympic status is withdrawn from the pursuit and other events.

American rider Taylor Phinney is also likely to be frustrated. He won pursuit gold at the world championships in March, and would have been one of the big favourites for gold in 2012.

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