USA Cycling unveiled several new programs designed to increase international racing opportunities for American track riders on Friday. The USA has struggled to keep up with track powerhouses such as Great Britain and Australia in recent years, although they've enjoyed success from female riders like Jennie Reed (2008 world champion, keirin) and Sarah Hammer (2006, 2007, pursuit) and the recent emergence of Taylor Phinney as a name for the future.
USA Cycling will begin by abandoning its "Talent Pool" criteria for selection to the country's world championship team. For the 2009 championships in Pruszkow, Poland, on March 26-30, the team will be selected "based on various parameters including 2008 world championship performance, time standards and additional international results."
The access to international competition has been relatively limited for US track athletes, but the new programs aim to expand attendance by American riders to not just the World Cups, but also the European Grand Prix and Six Day races. USA Cycling also hopes to develop new talent along the way.
"We've already built a successful model for athlete development," said USA Cycling Director of Athletics, Pat McDonough. "Now it's just a matter of specifically applying it to track riders. We've shown in other disciplines that consistent exposure to international competition is the most effective way to develop world-class athletes, so we needed to expand upon that idea for our track athletes. In the past, sending a team to four World Cups a year didn't provide our athletes with the amount of high-level racing necessary to improve."
USA cycling will first expand its men's and women's endurance programs, and in 2010 it will add a long-term sprint program. Both the men's and women's endurance programs will focus efforts on developing athletes who are relatively new to track cycling at the international level, and will take advantage of infrastructure and resources already established by USA Cycling for its U-23 National Team in Izegem, Belgium and its Women's National Team in Lucca, Italy.
USA Cycling will not field a national team for the season's first three World Cup events in Manchester, Melbourne, Australia and Cali, Colombia. US trade team athletes will take part in these events. However a national team comprised of development athletes will represent the United States at round four in Beijing and the fifth and final race in Copenhagen this winter.
Details of USA Cycling's track program can be found at the organisation's web site.