If the time and distance involved in travelling to World Cup races weren’t enough to contend with, from 2015 the world’s track cyclists will have to endure another adaptation when they cross the equator: changing racing direction.
Every velodrome in the world currently runs races anti-clockwise. But the UCI Technical Committee today announced that from the beginning of 2015, velodromes in the Southern hemisphere will run races in a clockwise direction.
It’s all to do with Coriolis forces, and evening the playing field between southern and northern hemisphere velodromes, according to the UCI.
The Coriolis force is why cyclones rotate anti-clockwise on the northern hemisphere and clockwise on the southern hemisphere. An extremely careful statistical analysis of race times in the northern and southern hemisphere velodromes has revealed that the Coriolis effect is responsible for a small disadvantage in record attempts in the southern hemosphere.
“It’s surprising how very small things affect track racing times,” said Dr Allan Smithee of the University of Sydney, who analysed race times in a paper published in the Journal of Esoteric Sports Technology.
“We’ve known for a while that small changes in humidity affect track times,” he added, “so it’s not too startling that the Coriolis force slows down racers south of the equator. After all, it’s strong enough to affect which way water flows down the plug.”
What is surprising, though, is how quickly the UCI has acted on this discovery. “It’s not like the UCI to let scientific facts and sense get in the way of centuries of tradition,” commented Dr Smithee, himself a Cat 2 racer. “But it’s great to see them taking this simple step to level the playing field.”
Australia’s track team stands to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the change. Gennie Sheer, spokesperson for Cycling Australia said, “As our track team is called the Cyclones, it makes perfect sense that they will now go in the right direction on their home tracks.”
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.