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Europeans react to Olympic track changes

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Former Olympic Champion Robert Bartko

Former Olympic Champion Robert Bartko (Image credit: Bjorn Haake / Cyclingnews)
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German Roger Kluge has signed with ProTour team Milram for 2010

German Roger Kluge has signed with ProTour team Milram for 2010 (Image credit: AFP)
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Men's points race podium (l-r): Iljo Keisse (Belgium), 2nd; Ioannis Tamouridis (Greece), 1st; Marcel Barth (Germany), 3rd.

Men's points race podium (l-r): Iljo Keisse (Belgium), 2nd; Ioannis Tamouridis (Greece), 1st; Marcel Barth (Germany), 3rd. (Image credit: Luis Barbosa)

European riders have reacted to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Cycling Union's (UCI) shake-up of the Olympic track program. Belgian and German riders directly affected by the changes had expressed their disappointment with the decision.

On Friday, the IOC approved changes to the Olympic track cycling programme that will see gender equality of medals from the London 2012 Games onwards. The men's Madison, points race and individual pursuit will be replaced by a women's keirin, as well as men's and women's omnium events.

Belgium had been one of the most vocal opponents to the proposed changes. Belgian Madison rider Iljo Keisse was informed of the IOC's decision two hours before his first event at the UCI track World Cup round in Cali, Colombia and the 26-year-old was quick to express his disappointment.

"This decision was taken by people too far from our sport," Keisse told Het Laatste Nieuws. "And this decision has been made right in between two Olympic Games; this is not only a disaster for Belgium, but for track cycling in general. If Olympic gold, still the highest award available in track cycling, is not a possibility, what effect does it have?"

Keisse said that although the Madison would remain a World Championship event, the Olympic decision could see him abandon the track altogether in order to focus on a career on the road.

"It remains part of Worlds, but that does not have the prestige of the Olympics. The events now left in the Olympics, the omnium and the team pursuit, are not my desired events," he said. "It's just as well I've now signed with Quick-Step; perhaps I am now headed in that direction. With the changes, the Six-day events no longer aim towards the [Olympics]."

Keisse's Six-day colleagues and Olympic medallists in two of the events removed from the program, Germans Robert Bartko and Roger Kluge, have also expressed their disappointment at the decision to press agency dpa.

Bartko, a gold medallist (Sydney, 2000) in the now former-Olympic discipline of the individual pursuit said, "I find the decision very sad. It just makes track cycling less interesting."

"Eliminating Madison and the points race is a hard blow to me," said Kluge, who took silver in the men's points race at last year's Beijing Olympics. "Both events have been an important part of track racing for many years and have a long tradition."

However, with gender parity now established on the Olympic program, the German cycling federation (Bund Deutscher Radfahrer, BDR) said their priority will be to "bridge the gap" to the top nations in women's track cycling.

"I think it will be a great challenge," German coach Detlef Uibel told dpa. "Especially in the women's field, we now need to intensify efforts to bridge the gap to world leaders."

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