The Track to London 2012 Starts in Poland

The Track to London 2012 Starts in Poland

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Britain's Victoria Pendleton and the rest of the World's best female sprinters will have three opportunties of winning medals in London 2012. Victoria will start her Olympic campaign in Poland along with Jess Varnish.

The Olympic events in the World Championships will carry the most points with the World Cups next on the sliding scale of available points followed by the Europeans. While the addition of the European Championships has felt a little ‘heath robinson’ throughout 2010, there has been a lot of work going on in the background at the UCI who have had to make adjustments to other similar competitions so that all the Continental Championships in Asia, Oceania, Pan America etc are similar to Europe’s for the purpose of the Olympic qualifying process.

Booking a place at the Olympics however is not as simple as getting to as many of the qualifying events as a country can. This is because each continental region (Europe, Asia, Pan America, Africa etc) will have a quota of nations that can make the Olympics in 2012. This is part of the UCI’s programme to help globalise cycling to ensure it remains in the Olympic arena and the sport is not dominated by European nations.

Take the Team Sprint (men & women) for example. A maximum of five countries from Europe will be in with a chance of qualifying within the 10 nations that will contest the Olympic medals in London 2012 for the Team Sprint. A look at the table in the document provided by the UCI however shows that when you add up the quotas for each continental region (Team Sprint), the figure is made up of 12 nations. Only 10 however will get a ride in the Team Sprint.

Jason Kenny and Matt Crampton will be looking to get GB off to a solid start in the Olympic campaign in the Team Sprint in Poland on November 5th.

So, not only will the sixth European nation not get a ride, it may be that the fourth and fifth ones don’t as well so countries like GB, France, Germany etc will not want to be complacent and just ride to be one of the top five. With this in mind, it is easy to see why the Team Sprint is so important to a nation’s team and its riders because the reward for being one of those 10 teams who qualify to line up in the Team Sprint at the London Olympic velodrome goes beyond the team event itself.

Each of the ten countries from the Team Sprint will also earn a single place in the Sprint and Keirin (Men and Women). This means in the men’s Team Sprint event for instance, that one of the three riders who are selected for this event, or even another team member outside of the Team Sprint trio, will have the option of riding either or both the Sprint and Keirin.

The Sprint and Keirin though would not be much of a spectacle with only ten riders which means that more qualifying rules are in place to find the other riders to take part. In the Sprint for example, there will be 18 riders in the flying 200 metre qualifying opener (men & women) with the other eight riders given places based on their nation’s World ranking for the Sprint. The same will apply for the Keirin and the World rankings for that event.

This will give countries that perhaps only have one or two good sprinters the opportunity to qualify a place in a Sprint event at the Olympics even if their country does not qualify for the Team Sprint. And so the qualifying system goes on for the other events although with only two endurance events, Team Pursuit and Omnium, the rules are much simpler.

Luke Rowe and Ed Clancy in action at Revolution 29 recently. Both riders are on the list for Poland with Clancy expected to ride the Omnium in which he is the current World Champion.

This qualifying system for London 2012 will for sure have a bearing on a nation’s Team Selection too especially as the maximum number of male and female riders has been reduced from previous Olympiads.

Each nation will be allowed to take a maximum of nine male riders and seven female riders. How this complicates things can be seen by looking at Team GB. With three places needed for the Team Sprint (men) and four for the Team Pursuit (men), that’s seven riders already without considering the riders for the other individual events (Sprint, Keirin and Omnium). This means one or more riders will need to double up in events.

One possible dilemma of many for GB may be the question of whether they take only three sprinters which would allow for a dedicated Omnium endurance rider as well as a fifth man for the Team Pursuit. Or, do they take four sprinters and five endurance riders with the Omnium rider being a reserve for the Team Pursuit? With such strength in-depth across Sprint and Endurance, GB will certainly have a lot of options and the riders that are seen to be the best chance for Gold are expected to be the ones chosen by the selectors.

For sure, the pressure for places in a nation’s Olympic Team will certainly be more intense than ever. It should be noted too that there is room for a replacement rider to be brought into the Olympic village should a rider fall ill or get injured but that is probably cold comfort for coaches and selectors.

There is of course a lot more to the selection process than that explained already. Each event will have its own quota system and supplementary rules and then there’s the ability for a nation to request a rider be included from the Tripartite Commission. That’s a story for another time though as it won’t apply to powerful nations in cycling like Britain.

The key for GB is that Olympic qualification starts in Poland which gives them the opportunity to lay down a solid foundation for 2012. While the Europeans may not offer as many qualifying points as a World Cup or World Championship, because nations can enter a maximum of two riders in individual events like the Sprint or Keirin, a good result in those events will certainly help the team’s campaign.

No nation will want to leave it until the last few events in the qualifying process to gain the necessary points for London 2012 especially as many nations will want to have an easy ‘ride’ into London 2012 and not be globe trotting in the run up to those Olympics. Travelling for athletes is never a help when there is training to be done so a good foundation is what GB will be after.

Way before he's even got to the finish line, Chris Hoy is celebrating a victory over Olympic Silver medallist Jason Kenny. The Olympic campaign for both riders starts in Poland.

The Olympic process starts here for Sir Chris Hoy
A look down the list of riders for the GB team going to Poland and it is clear the team is taking the event seriously. It is, as one rider explained, an important but not vital championship which is why the Great Britain riders have been continuing to train right up to within a few weeks of the championships and not peak like they will for the World Championships.

The exciting thing about the Polish event is it will be the first time riders from the European nations will come together to clash in the events chosen for the 2012 Olympics.  One of those riders will be a knight in very shiny armour, a Golden sheen you might say, as four time Olympic champion Sir Chris Hoy starts his Olympic qualification trek from Manchester, to Poland, to many other places in the world before finally ending up in London.

A very professional rider on and off the track, Chris Hoy is much loved by the fans and rightly so.

While Olympic champions like Bradley Wiggins and Rebecca Romero (Individual Pursuit) have been denied the opportunity to defend their titles, to name but two of the many who have lost out after the UCI axe fell on the endurance events, Sir Chris Hoy and the rest of the World’s sprinters, have seen their events remain in the programme. It is very clear watching him race, that Hoy still has the hunger and desire to do the triple again. At Revolution 29, Hoy was just simply unbelievably fast and perhaps even he is impressed with his form after watching replays of his victories.

Talking about the first Olympic qualification event in Poland, Chris says “we’re expecting to do well in the Europeans but I wouldn’t say we’re expecting to wipe the board. It’s not like we’re going in with all guns blazing. It is a stepping stone.

Sir Chris is keeping it real ahead of the championships in Poland adding “We’re looking to do a consistent Team Sprint, get some good points and see about the rest of it. It is very much the first step of four or five for the Worlds this season.

It is a significant event and the important thing for us will be to get Team Sprint points. A top three would be a nice way to start it (the Olympic qualification process) off. At the end of the qualifying period in two years time, we have to be top four at least in Europe in the Team Sprint so if we really lay down some markers against the French and Germans, we should be alright. It won’t be easy to be top nation but as long as we get some significant points, that will be fine.

One of the key things about London 2012 will be that nations are only being allowed one rider per event. So whereas Chris got a ride in all three Sprint races in the Beijing Olympics, which he won, there were also other British riders like Jason Kenny in the same event. So for Chris to go for three Gold in London, he’ll have to ensure he stays on top of not only the Worlds best but also the best of the British such as Kenny.

Chris Hoy and Jason Kenny show their sprint skills with a standstill at Revolution 29.

At Revolution 29, he did just that as he bounced back from a disappointing nationals where he was ill. "It has been great to know that the preparations have been going well for the Europeans and the World Championships” he said at Revolution 29. “There has been a different approach to my training this year where I have had a very much more solid foundation to my training rather than peaking too soon.

Last Thursday, I produced my highest ever peak power in training, over 2,500 watts. You can't ague with the numbers, they're black and white. Then I came here to race against some good opposition and beating them has been great for the confidence"

"The time in qualifying was my target. The problem with these type of events (Revolution) is you don't get the normal preparation and warm-up you do at a championship event. The track is only open for a short a while and it’s always a bit rushed so you don't often go that fast so I'm pleased with that time tonight. I was in the gym yesterday and none of us are really flying as we're in the middle of a heavy training block.

That training will now have eased as the journey to Poland draws ever closer and Hoy’s first race on the track in Poland will be the Team Sprint. Having been through the qualification rules, it is easy to see why the Team Sprint is so important to the riders and the team. Anyone who saw Hoy racing at Revolution 29 though will be in no doubt that he, along with the likes of Jason Kenny and Matthew Crampton, will do the country proud on November 5th when Great Britain takes the first step on the road to London 2012.  

British Cycling will be there to report on how the Great Britain riders fare against the best in Europe.

Quick Facts

GB Long Team for Elite Euros
Men's Sprint: Matt Crampton, Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny, Ross Edgar
Men's Endurance: Steven Burke, Ed Clancy, Alex Dowsett, Jason Queally, Luke Rowe, Andy Tennant
Women's Sprint: Victoria Pendleton, Jess Varnish
Women's Endurance: Katie Colclough, Wendy Houvenaghel, Joanna Rowsell, Laura Trott

Events: 10 Olympic Events (five for men and women), Omnium, Team Sprint, Team Pursuit, Sprint & Keirin

Rider Numbers per Team for 2012
Each nation will be able to qualify a total of 16 riders for the 2012 Games, 9 men, 7 Women.

The Qualifying Rules: UCI Olympic Qualification PDF: Download

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