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Commentator blasts rejig of track programme, teams take to Surrey roads ahead of tomorrow's big race...

Veteran cycling commentator Phil Liggett has risked the wrath of BMX and mountain biking fans by suggesting that those events should not be at the Olympics. Meawhile, last minute preparations are being made ahead of tomorrow's men's road race, with world champion Mark Cavendish and Tour de France champion Bradley WIggins among those out on training rides yesterday.

Speaking to the Australian newspaper the Herald Sun, Liggett criticised changes to the track programme introduced by the IOC and UCI that result in five events in the Velodrome for both men and women, with the individual pursuit one of those to be ditched: "It is absolutely disgraceful what they have done," he said. "They have devastated the track with the new events and taking out the iconic events of the Olympics," Liggett said.

"They have taken out the exciting and interesting events - the individual pursuit, the 1km time trial and the women's 500m time trial, and put in an omnium that no one will ever understand. There is only one rider from each country in the omnium and they are a jack of all trades and master of none."

"Nations and riders complained, but the UCI wanted equality. They got that but they also took out women's events. They introduced BMX. Great, but I am sure [Olympics founder] Pierre de Coubertin would have laughed his head off if he found out it was an Olympic discipline.

"It might be exciting but we are talking the Olympic Games. We have never had a good mountain biking event. Thousands will watch them but they are not Olympic gold medal events.

"They weren't meant to be in the Olympic Games."

Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins, together with the rest of Team GB, took to the Box Hill circuit yesterday for a training session there as the big race approaches. Other countries including Australia, Belgium and France were also out training on Surrey's roads yesterday.

There are more pictures accompanying this story on the Surrey County Council website, which also has links to useful information for those looking to attend this weekend's races.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

39 comments

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fred22 [158 posts] 3 years ago
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Tbh couldn't agree more

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OldRidgeback [2620 posts] 3 years ago
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What a load of bollox. He's living in the past.

I didn't understand what this bit was trying to say - it is ambiguous:

"He said disciplines like BMX and mountain biking simply should never be in the Olympics, given they were not the pinnacle of their sport."

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step-hent [722 posts] 3 years ago
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I agree that they ballsed up the track events - they should have ditched the omnium and kept the individual pursuit, if they absolutely had to lose an event. They claimed that they wanted to make track more understandable and appealing to those new to it - but the individual pursuit is the simplest and most easily understandable of all races to watch, as well as being very exciting.

As to whether or not BMX and MTB should be there - I don't see why not really. They require fitness and great skill, just like the track. They don't have quite as much history, but that doesn't make them unworthy of the olympics. I can't really see what Liggett is arguing - he hasn't really said anything except that he doesn't really like them.

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theendinfrench [14 posts] 3 years ago
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I'd expect comments like this from an uninformed outsider but it seems Ligget is becoming a seriously bigoted, grumpy old man...
I can't even watch ITV4's TdF coverage anymore because of his (and Sherwen's) ignorant comments.
I agree that removing the track events is outrageous but to suggest that BMX & MTB have no place at the Olympics is shameful.

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theclaw [73 posts] 3 years ago
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Liggett lost the plot a lot time ago folks. He maintains that Lance didn't dope "because he looked me in the eye and told me so" (this was at an event at Look Mum No Hands a couple of years ago) and he generally doesn't understand much of what is going on on screen. I do however agree with him about the track events - I've been racing for 20 years and I have only the vaguest notion of what the omnium is. How the public work it out.... but I don't see why he has a problem with bmx and mtb. They are huge cycling cultures in themselves and there is huge public participation in them. Can you imagine the old boy's reaction if they introduced downhill onto the agenda??!!

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Tony Farrelly [2868 posts] 3 years ago
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Following Phil's logic though the road race shouldn't be there cos the Olympics certainly isn't the pinnacle of the sport either. In fact I'd say if you were going to use the 'pinnacle of the sport' argument MTB and BMX would be in there ahead of road cycling.

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Tony Farrelly [2868 posts] 3 years ago
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Mind you, imagine what he would have said if the UCI had managed to get skateboarding under it's wing and classified as an Olympic sport, which they were trying to do a couple of years back.

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step-hent [722 posts] 3 years ago
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tony_farrelly wrote:

Following Phil's logic though the road race shouldn't be there cos the Olympics certainly isn't the pinnacle of the sport either. In fact I'd say if you were going to use the 'pinnacle of the sport' argument MTB and BMX would be in there ahead of road cycling.

Oh, I hadn't really understood his point on that bit. So he's saying that if the Olympics isn't the pinaccle of a sport then it should be an Olympic sport? That would rule out half of the Olympic sports! We'd be back to just track and field, really, and maybe track cycling too. Road definitely wouldn't be in there. Loon.

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edwardbmason [14 posts] 3 years ago
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As a mtber primarily, this really annoys me. Look at how many top class road racers have come out of mtb. Hesjdal, Evans, Sagan, Kessiakoff to name a few. I dont know why road development teams don't look at mtbers more often (or maybe they do, I'm not sure!). Anyway, the point is that mtb (and bmx)are massive part of cycling and Phil is still living in a time where he thinks mtbers are hippies in Cali on klunkers, and not some of the most well rounded athletes in cycling. Can't be long before he retires, every year David Harmons commentary makes his stuff look worse and worse.

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thereandbackagain [172 posts] 3 years ago
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"...They introduced BMX. Great, but I am sure [Olympics founder] Pierre de Coubertin would have laughed his head off if he found out it was an Olympic discipline."

He seems rather ill-informed about how broad the scope of the Olympics has been since its founding in 1890. Painting was a medal event in the 1920's.

http://www.h2g2.com/approved_entry/A87734505

I'm not making a judgement about what should be in and what should be out, perhaps Ligget should've thought a bit before flapping his gums as well. It's an event synthesised out of the cultural whims of its age, that's one of the reasons the content changes.

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Bagpuss [99 posts] 3 years ago
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He probably wants Olympic etching and poetry to be reintroduced.

Wasn't the test MTB race really well received by riders and spectators and maybe this time the course, although not mountainous by any stretch of the imagination will help provide a much better MTB race?

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GrimpeurChris [60 posts] 3 years ago
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The real point here is that the Track schedule is curtailed to make way for BMX & MTB in some way! How? Why cant the track events go beyond 1 week? Its not as if they have to make room in the velodrome for something else? Just smacks of UCI dictatorship ... managing to rig the "games" to suit their purpose which seems to dilute the domination of cycling events by one country (if they can!)!! If there had been a longer track schedule then maybe more of us would have got tickets!
Watching the games on TV cos can't get tickets & won't pay for something that was going to be free on principle!
Com'on Cav!

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Some Fella [890 posts] 3 years ago
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It has to be said though that many ex-MTBers and BMXers do go over to the road/track and rarely the other way round and that, to me, says something about the status of the respective disciplines.
BMX is grown ups on children's bikes and Mountain biking is grown ups acting like children.
Road cycling is for real grown ups.

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OldRidgeback [2620 posts] 3 years ago
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Chris Hoy made his competitive debut in BMX too

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Swirly [65 posts] 3 years ago
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While the individual pursuit was "the" track event the most watchable has to be the devil which is only in as part of the omnium.

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STATO [498 posts] 3 years ago
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GrimpeurChris wrote:

The real point here is that the Track schedule is curtailed to make way for BMX & MTB in some way! How? Why cant the track events go beyond 1 week? Its not as if they have to make room in the velodrome for something else?

I seem to recall it was nothing to do with dates/schedules and more to do with number of events, you cant just add events to the olympics, for every one that is added one must be dropped within that discipline. So add mens/womens BMX and MTB forces 4 track events out. Same when they had to drop mens events to add in more womens events so it was an even distribution.

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londonbrick [26 posts] 3 years ago
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Some Fella wrote:

BMX is grown ups on children's bikes and Mountain biking is grown ups acting like children.
Road cycling is for real grown ups.

Sounds familiar, last time I have heard this sort of wisdom was in early 90's. From people who couldn't stand the popularity of mountain bikes.It is as ludicrous as Ligget's comments.Poor old man.

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TheHatter [770 posts] 3 years ago
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STATO wrote:
GrimpeurChris wrote:

The real point here is that the Track schedule is curtailed to make way for BMX & MTB in some way! How? Why cant the track events go beyond 1 week? Its not as if they have to make room in the velodrome for something else?

I seem to recall it was nothing to do with dates/schedules and more to do with number of events, you cant just add events to the olympics, for every one that is added one must be dropped within that discipline. So add mens/womens BMX and MTB forces 4 track events out. Same when they had to drop mens events to add in more womens events so it was an even distribution.

but why can't you have more medals when there are now more sports?
its ridiculous that an entire stadium is built and could have sold out many times over has its programme cut.

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37monkey [138 posts] 3 years ago
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theendinfrench wrote:

I'd expect comments like this from an uninformed outsider but it seems Ligget is becoming a seriously bigoted, grumpy old man...
I can't even watch ITV4's TdF coverage anymore because of his (and Sherwen's) ignorant comments.
I agree that removing the track events is outrageous but to suggest that BMX & MTB have no place at the Olympics is shameful.

I agree, Phil Luddite defiantly suffers from a case of the Murray Walkers. I went off him years ago when he scoffed at the computers estimate of when a break being caught was out by 1km and when he had a rant about wind turbines and the overly dumbed down explanation of cycling and.......

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Carvers [36 posts] 3 years ago
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Pretty shortsighted comment in general. And agree with some of the ITV4 commentary.

He would have been better placed to say that he thinks the ommitted track events should have been kept in at the expense of some of the other olympic disciplines rather than focussing on other cycling events that he seems to have issue with.

IMHO darts could easily be argued to be included as a discpline given that shooting or archery are already included. But obviously I'd never actually want that!!

Ideally I'd make way for MTB (XC and DH), BMX (racing, dirt or flatland)- and CX for that matter - as olympic disciplines over some of the other "sports" that are currently included as events

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Simon E [2721 posts] 3 years ago
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Some Fella wrote:

BMX is grown ups on children's bikes and Mountain biking is grown ups acting like children.
Road cycling is for real grown ups.

Ha ha, like it!

Liggett, an old-skool roadie and CTC stalwart, and has his opinion. Doesn't make it right or wrong, and I'm not sure whether there is a right or wrong. Wasn't BMX brought in to appeal to kids? Or perhaps it was that a brief, mult-rider event with a good prospect of some colour and drama was more TV-friendly than almost robotic looking IP pairs circulating on the boards 16 times.

It all depends on what the IOC/UCI et al want us to see. Dropping the IP is criminal in my opinion but I understand the 'all-rounder' appeal of the Omnium where most are specialists, like the Decathlon and Heptathlon, or even Triathlon. Try telling Daley Thompson or Kelly Sotherton it's irrelevant.

Olympic success is obviously a huge thing to achieve but in my view it's a tad irrelevant, certainly for XC and road nowadays. Just one chance of winning every four years, a lot can change in that time for any athlete. The road race is a comparable event to the Worlds except you don't get to wear that jersey for 12 months and if the course doesn't suit your strengths then tough luck.

If we're discussing which ones are 'Olympic quality' branches of the sport then shouldn't Cyclo-Cross get a mention? Or bicycle polo? TBH I'll be glad when it's all over, though of course happier still if British riders net a decent medal haul.

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Pierre [95 posts] 3 years ago
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Some Fella wrote:

It has to be said though that many ex-MTBers and BMXers do go over to the road/track and rarely the other way round and that, to me, says something about the status of the respective disciplines.
BMX is grown ups on children's bikes and Mountain biking is grown ups acting like children.
Road cycling is for real grown ups.

Shanaze Reade and Liam Phillips are excellent track cyclists, Liam Killeen has trained and raced on road, Annie Last has raced cyclocross... I don't think you have a point.

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BigDummy [314 posts] 3 years ago
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Dirt Mag is dissing the Olympic mountain-biking for being rubbish. I'm not very convinced many mountain-bikers care much whether it's in or out. I could certainly do without it.

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Tripod16 [157 posts] 3 years ago
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BMX and mountain biking have the X Games, that is where they belong.

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andyp [1448 posts] 3 years ago
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Surely if anything needs to be cut its the incessant swimming?! People winning 7/8 golds in a single games is a joke. I'm sure Hoy would have got 7 had they introduced lots more 'almost exactly the same as the last event but just a tiny bit different' races like in the pool. Kilo, kilo whilst on the blue line, kilo the other way round the track...

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Edgeley [349 posts] 3 years ago
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The BMX and MTB events take place in a different place, with different people, to the track events. The dimunition in track races isn't caused by the existence of BMX and MTB.

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Carvers [36 posts] 3 years ago
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Tripod16 wrote:

BMX and mountain biking have the X Games, that is where they belong.

Don't think any MTB discupline is, or ever has been, in the XGames?

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OldRidgeback [2620 posts] 3 years ago
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Can't say I have an opinion on MTB racing in the Olympics, but I think BMX certainly has its place and it beats me why cyclocross isn't in already too. Cycle polo may well merit a place as well in time to come.

I frequently hear patronising comments about BMX and small wheels from road riders when I'm practising. I often ask them if they want a shot and when they take me up on it they generally make it halfway round the track before realising it's a whole lot more demanding than they'd appreciated. Throw in seven other riders and fierce cornering technique and you have an Olympic sport that's up there with boxing and fencing in terms of channelled aggression.

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AWPeleton [3315 posts] 3 years ago
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Maybe i'm wrong here but to me bmx is a miny version of mtb ?

smaller bikes on a smaller dirt track with a few jumps, bumps and corners. I dont mean it cant be an Olympic sport though as for goodness sake we have synchronized swimming - to me that should not be allowed full stop never mind an Olympic sport.

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AWPeleton [3315 posts] 3 years ago
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PS Liggett is a bufoon  4

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