Track riders challenge Olympic changes in letter to UCI and IOC

Riders continue fight against proposed Olympic changes, 'Loss of best track talent' a major concern

A group of 24 current track riders has continued the fight against proposed changes to the Olympic track cycling program, sending correspondence to International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Jacques Rogge and International Cycling Union (UCI) president Pat McQuaid in an attempt to illustrate why the modifications should not take place.

Denmark's World Madison Champions Michael Mørkøv and Alex Rasmussen joined 22 of their fellow track riders - from seven different countries - in signing the open letter to the Olympic and cycling governing bodies.

With a decision due on December 12, the IOC and UCI are proposing that the individual pursuit, men's points and Madison should be scrapped in order to add the men's omnium, while the women's team sprint, team pursuit and omnium would become part of the program for the London Games.

The riders said that, "By taking the madison, points race and individual pursuit disciplines away, there will be a huge impact on endurance track cycling as the prestige in those events will be very low," and "The idea of bringing the omnium to the Olympic program is, as we see it, a compromise. If that is done, we are not going to have the world's best pursuiters and points race riders at the starting line in the future."

The biggest problem facing the cause of those against the proposed changes is the number of medals made available for cycling events by the IOC. Cyclingnews recently learned from UCI Oceania President Mike Turtur that cycling cannot be granted more medal events; instead, events must be removed and replaced in the program rather than simply added upon.

This is in contrast to swimming and track and field, which are classified as 'heritage' sports, and are consequently granted more medal events than other Olympic sports. The men's 1000m time trial and women's 500m time trial were axed from the Beijing Olympic program to make way for the debut of BMX and ocean swimming - the move was compared to removing the 100m sprint in athletics.

So when the IOC and UCI made gender equality a priority, it was always going to come at the cost of several men's events. The riders addresses this in its letter, saying, "We absolutely understand that the IOC might want gender equality and we are certainly not against it. But we kindly ask you to obtain this in two phases: an elevation of the number of female participants in 2012 and a restructuring of disciplines and medals in 2016."

As the day slated for a decision draws closer, momentum is building in opposition to the changes; go to the Cyclingnews forums to have your say on the proposed amendments to the Olympic program.

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