Australian team ready for Olympic program changes

Anna Meares cools down after another successful sprint.

Anna Meares cools down after another successful sprint. (Image credit:

Cycling Australia's high performance manager Kevin Tabotta believes that the proposed changes to the Olympic track program shouldn't affect the nation's preparation for the 2012 London Games.

He stressed that the team's management wouldn't react until the proposed changes - which includes culling the individual pursuit and Madison in favour of the men's omnium and women's team sprint - are ratified by the International Cycling Union (UCI) and International Olympic Committee (IOC) in December.

"We don't want to put the cart before the horse - we're not going to get official notification until the UCI and ICO have ratified the arrangement," Tabotta told Cyclingnews.

"We're aware of the changes and we've got it on good information of where the UCI wants to head but it's still not ratified, so the message that's gone back to athletes and coaching staff is, 'we're aware of it, have a think about it but it's business as usual until we get official notification',” he explained. “We're not going to react to anything until it's official.”

Given that Australia possesses the world champions in both the events to be included in the proposal, his task is made more directed by the fact that he'll be overseeing the preparation of Anna Meares and Kaarle McCulloch (women's team sprint) and Leigh Howard (men's omnium), who prevailed at this year's world titles in Poland.

Tabotta wasn't disclosing much detail of what that would mean for Australia's Olympic preparations, however. "If and when it becomes official, we'll then consider our position and how that affects our allocation of funding and resources, how it affects our preparation strategy and also consider the impact that has on our connection with Varese, in Italy, [the Australian road squad's European base] and how we prepare athletes," he said.

Assuming the proposed changes are introduced, Cycling Australia's Varese base would then likely focus solely on the hopes of the nation's best under 23 riders. Until this point it has worked in tandem with track aspirants who have continued to compete in endurance events at worlds level whilst pursuing road competition throughout the season.

Tabotta is quick to explain that, like the women's 500m time trial, which was left out of the program for Beijing but remains in the world championship schedule, events such as the Madison and individual pursuit will remain valuable tools in equipping Australia's riders for Olympic tests, particularly the men's omnium, which covers a variety of races under its banner.

"On the surface of it I'd say if this [the changes] go ahead there will be some emphasis on certain areas that may not be as strong now and maybe a withdrawal in areas where there is a strong emphasis," said Tabotta. "I don't think you're going to see wholesale changes initially because what we have [left over after the changes] are events that also need to be used as development for Olympic events. You can't just focus on those 10 events and not provide pathways for athletes.

"It's no different to some of these riders pursuing road competition in Europe as part of Team Jayco-AIS, knowing that their main objective is to get results at the Olympics in London... you use one thing to prepare for something else. We'll look at it in a total context," he added.

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