Limits on track rider numbers force countries to adopt novel approach to selection

Imagine for a moment that Ross Edgar had been selected to ride in the mountain bike event at London 2012, or that Jason Kenny had been named in Geat Britain’s men’s road race team. Bizarre as it seems, that’s pretty much what Germany, with Robert Förstemann and France, with Mickaël Bourgain, have done in each naming a track star in their line-up for a quite different discipline at the forthcoming Olympic Games.

According to The Guardian, both countries are using rules governing Olympic selection that allow riders from other disciplines to be brought into the track line-up should they be required as a way of giving them options in the three men's track sprint events – the individual and team sprints and the keirin.

The convoluted selection policy adopted by both countries is due to selection rules that limit them to eight riders across all track events. With half of those needed for the team pursuit and a reserve rider likely to be needed for the endurance events, that in effect restricts  them to just three men for the track sprint events. It also leaves no room for back-up nor for selecting a rider who may specialise in an event such as the keirin but who wouldn’t be in the strongest line-up for the team event.

In the case of Bourgain, who has two Olympic bronze medals, won in the individual sprint at Beijing in 2008 and in the team sprint in Athens four years earlier, his inclusion in the road team is to enable him to switch across to the keirin, and the question isn’t whether he’ll finish the race, but more it which point he’ll consider it no longer indecently early to climb off his bike.

The website for the French Olympic Team, which does not currently show the riders selected for the road race, does have Bourgain down for the keirin, alongside three other track sprinters – Grégory Baugé, who will ride in the individual and team sprints, and Mickael D’Almeida and Kévin Sireau, who will join him in the latter event.

The Guardian reports that French cycling federation president David Lapartient had told L’Equipe: "We could not do that to Bourgain [leave him out]. The Olympic Games are essential for a track racer and we consider he has a chance of a medal."

As for Förstemann, who alongside Maximilian Levy and Stefan Nimke was awarded the 2011 world championship in the team sprint after the UCI relegated France from the results following Baugé's suspension by the FFC for missed drugs tests, he is selected for Germany for the mountain bike event but will instead focus on the track – according to The Guardian, the rider himself admits that his MTB experience is limited to riding one "in the winter to keep fit."

Great Britain head coach Shane Sutton told The Guardian: "It won't affect us but it does give those teams the chance to switch their team sprint line-ups late in the day."

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.