Track riders urge IOC to rethink London 2012 proposals

Cyclists want changes introduced gradually - but British names conspicuous by absence

by Simon_MacMichael   December 1, 2009  

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A number of the world’s leading track riders have sent an open letter jointly addressed to cycling’s governing body, the UCI, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) asking that proposed changes to the track programme at London 2012 be reconsidered.

No British riders are among the 22 signatories to the offer, and the fact that British Cycling recently modified the programme at the National Championships in Manchester suggests that Team GB is continuing its preparations for London on the assumption that the proposals are a fait accompli.

As previously reported on road.cc, the IOC is expected this month to ratify UCI proposals to introduce gender equality in track disciplines from the 2012 Games onwards, with five events each for men and women compared to seven and three, respectively, at Beijing last year. The five events for each gender in London 2012 will be the individual sprint, team sprint, team pursuit, keirin and omnium.

That would see three men’s events disappear – the Madison, the Points Race and the Individual Pursuit – which has attracted criticism from riders such as Bradley Wiggins, who will be unable to defend his Olympic title in the latter event in front of a home-town crowd. That same event would also disappear from the women’s programme, putting gold medallist Rebecca Romero, who called the proposals “ludicrous”, in a similar situation to Wiggins.

The website Daily Peloton.com reproduced the full text of the letter, which was datelined Ghent, 29 November 2009, and addressed to UCI President Pat McQuaid and IOC President Jacques Rogge under the heading “Modification Olympic track disciplines” (sic), as well as a list of the signatories.

Those signing the letter – all men, as it happens – include a number of World Championship and Olympic medallists, such as the Danes Michael Morkov and Alex Rasmussen, and Australia’s Glenn O’Shea and Howard Leigh, as well as Germany’s Leif Lampater.

They say that they certainly aren’t opposed to reaching gender equality, but believe that the proposed measures introduce changes too quickly and will have an adverse affect on the future of the endurance disciplines that will be dropped from the schedule in London.

In particular, they point out that dropping the events a little over two and a half years before the Games take place undermines the efforts of athletes who may have been targeting them years in advance, and that any changes be phased in over the next two Summer Olympics, with more female participants in 2012, then a restructure of events for Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Finally, they hope to have a delegation of riders involved in the final decision, but with the IOC due to adopt the changes this month, that may be a forlorn hope.