UCI president Brian Cookson made an appeal to his counterpart at the head of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, asking for consideration for the inclusion of cyclo-cross in the Winter Olympic Games.
Bach indicated ahead of this year's Winter Games in Sochi that he is open to changes to the rules surrounding the inclusion of sports in the Games, including eliminating the seven-year waiting period. Although it is sometimes raced on snow and ice, cyclo-cross has not been considered for the Winter Games because of the Olympic Charter, which states: "only those sports which are practised on snow or ice are considered as winter sports."
"I believe that cyclo-cross - which takes place during the northern hemisphere winter – would be an exciting addition to the Winter Games," Cookson stated in a press release.
"Cyclo-cross requires endurance, explosive power and incredible bike handling skills. Many youngsters wishing to take up cycling pass through the school of cyclo-cross, and the breathtaking performances of the Junior athletes at the recent UCI World Championships in Hoogerheide clearly demonstrated the depth of young talent around the globe."
Previously dominated by central European countries such as Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, France and the Czech Republic, the sport has begun a dramatic expansion, and is now hugely popular at the grassroots level in North America, in Japan, and is growing in the Southern Hemisphere. It has also expanded in Europe, with the United Kingdom being awarded the first World Cup round in history outside of Continental Europe.
"Athletes representing 23 countries and five continents competed in the 2014 UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championships last weekend," Cookson said. "Two nations - Macedonia and Serbia - sent athletes to the Worlds for the first time. The Women and Junior categories experienced the biggest jump in participation levels, a true demonstration of the growth the Cyclo-Cross discipline is currently experiencing."
The IOC has been pushing for medal parity between men and women in recent years, and Cookson pointed out that cyclo-cross would offer equal medal opportunities for both genders, at the same time "the infrastructure and related costs required to install a circuit are minimal, and the principle is clear-cut: first across the line is the winner".
The Olympic schedule is set to be discussed during the Sochi Games by the Olympic Committee, of which now lacks direct influence since previous UCI president, Pat McQuaid, lost his seat in the IOC when he failed to be elected to a new term in September. However, Cookson vowed to advocate for the sport's inclusion in the Games.
"I look forward to a debate about whether Cyclo-Cross, and indeed other sports practised in the winter season, should be part of the Winter Olympic Games," he said.
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