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Mixed cycling relay at Olympics? Could be, suggests UCI President

UCI president gives initial thoughts on IOC reforms that will come into effect ahead of Tokyo 2020

Could mixed relay cycling feature in the Olympic Games? That’s one possibility mooted by UCI president Brian Cookson as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) votes on 40 recommendations drawn up by under IOC president Thomas Bach’s 20+20 reform programme.

One of those recommendations, adopted unanimously by IOC members during an extraordinary session currently taking place in Monte Carlo, is to raise female participation at the Games to 50 per cent.

It also encourages “the inclusion of mixed-gender team events.”

Cookson, who in contrast to his predecessor as UCI president Pat McQuaid is not an IOC member, is in Monte Carlo while the organisation's session takes place, and told Reuters it was too early to say what impact the changes might have on the cycling programme.

Describing Bach’s reforms as “interesting,” he said: "I'm looking forward to precisely what format cycling will have in Tokyo,” the city that hosts the 2020 Summer Olympics when the changes will be introduced.

He said cycling was open to new ideas, although he was in the "very early stages" of considering them.

On the subject of mixed events, he said: "Men and women competing together, there is no history of that, maybe a team relay.

"We'd need to do some test events and to consult with the national federations, what would work and not work.

"Mixing men and women at the same event in the same time ... If that is something the IOC feels would make cycling look attractive we need to look into that."

Mixed teams currently feature in just two Olympic sports – equestrian, and sailing, with mixed crews in the latter permitted in just one event.

However, since 1999, a team relay event has featured at the UCI Mountain Biking & Trials World Championships. Normally, teams will have three male riders – one elite, one under-23, and one junior – and one female elite rider.

Substitutions to vary the make-up of the team are allowed under UCI regulation 9.2.032, but only in a way that guarantees there is always at least one woman on the team.

The current world champions are France, whose team at Lillehammer, Norway in September included Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, who three weeks later would become women’s road world champion in Ponferrada, Spain.

Introducing a mixed cycling event to the Olympics could well see the sport having to sacrifice another event to make way for it, and at a time when it could also face competition from others wanting a place at the Games.

That follows the adoption of another recommendation that will see the 28-sport limit that currently applies at the Summer Olympic Games abolished favour of an event-focused framework, which it is hoped will lead to a wider variety of sports being featured.

Baseball and softball, two hugely popular sports in Japan, are tipped to be included in the programme for 2020 as a result of that change. Squash has long lobbied to be included in the Games.

Earlier this year, it was reported that skateboarding and one cycling event not currently on the Olympic programme, BMX halfpipe, might be included in the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

But with the IOC capping the total number of events in the Summer Games at 310 (there were 302 at London 2012) and the total number of competing athletes at around 10,500, some events from existing Olympic events may need to make way.

Across the four cycling disciplines – road, track, mountain bike and BMX, cycling accounted for around 6 per cent of the medals available at London 2012, and approximately 5 per cent of the athletes competing.

Missing from the recommendations in the 20+20 programme is doing away with the requirement that sports included in the Winter Olympic programme need to be performed primarily on snow or ice.

That means there is no prospect of cyclo-cross featuring in the Winter Olympics, something the UCI lobbied the IOC for in January this year.

Cookson subsequently suggested that track cycling too could perhaps move to the Winter Olympics to coincide with the Northern Hemisphere winter, but that too falls foul of the “snow or ice” requirement.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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