Preview: The omnium - the velodrome's answer to the decathlon

Preview: The omnium - the velodrome's answer to the decathlon

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After the triumph at the last Olympic Games in Beijing four years ago in which the Great Britain Cycling team took a staggering 14 medals, 12 of which were secured on the track, a lot has changed. Not only in terms of how much performances have increased over the 48 months but also in the format of which races will be contested on the boards this summer.

In Beijing, Great Britain dominated the Individual Pursuit for both men and women with Rebecca Romero and recently crowned 2012 Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins winning gold. Wendy Houvenaghel also took silver and Steven Burke a bronze in the event. At Beijing, female competitors only had three events in which they could compete whereas the men had seven. Initially the Union Cycliste Internationale asked the International Olympic Committee to add to the track programme in order to increase female participation but the IOC turned this down, stating: “it could not increase the total number of medals awarded for cycling events at the Olympic Games (currently 18 gold medals) nor the number of athletes.”

In the name of equality, the International Olympic Committee decided (on the recommendation of the executive board of the UCI) that an even number of five events per sex would be implemented for the first time at London 2012. The events which were kept were the Sprint, Keirin, Team Sprint and the Team Pursuit meaning the loss of the individual pursuit, madison and points race. As the four events left over might have seemed a little too ‘sprint focused’, it was decided that a new multi-discipline event called the ‘omnium’ would be included.

FORMAT

The omnium is made up of the flying lap (250m) time trial, points race (30Km for men and 20Km for women), elimination race, individual pursuit (4Km for men and 3Km for women), scratch race (15Km for men and 10Km for women) and finally the individual time trial (1Km for men and 500m for women).

Each rider is awarded points for their placing at the end of each of the six events with first place getting one point, second getting two and so on. It is the rider at the conclusion of the six events who has the lowest score who will be deemed the winner. If there is a tie then times of all the tied riders’ time trial results (i.e. flying lap, individual pursuit and individual time trial) are summed together. Subsequently, the riders in question are then placed in order of the lowest time.

This was the scenario at the recent world championships in Melbourne where Ed Clancy and Lasse Hansen from Denmark were tied on 29 points at the conclusion of the six events and therefore both in contention for the bronze medal. Clancy, however lost out to Hansen, as their cumulative times in the time trial events had a difference of 3.748 seconds in Hansen’s favour. The event is to be held over two consecutive days and at this summer’s Games; the men’s event will debut on the 4 August followed by the women’s on the 6 August.

RIDERS

The selected athletes for the Great Britain Team come from both of our world record holding team pursuit squads, namely British Cycling Podium Programme athletes Ed Clancy and Laura Trott. Being current World Champions in their respective team pursuit events, Australia will be hot on their heels and clearly looking to pay them back for their last meeting in Melbourne. This would surely mean that all of their efforts are soley focused on training for that one event. However, as Trott explained in the recent media day in Newport, the schedule in London has allowed for decent gaps between the events. “There’s an even bigger gap than we had at the world championships so, it should be even better.

“I really enjoy the omnium but my main target is always going to be the team pursuit with the girls. I am throwing all my eggs in that basket so the omnium is just as it comes to be honest.”

Clancy further added to this: “It’s fantastic that I have been given another opportunity at a further medal and I will be giving it 100 per cent but I don’t have a lot of love for it. It’s the team pursuit that drives me to get out of bed and do this whole thing.”

Laura also confirmed that there will not be any specific training, as such for the omnium saying: “Obviously, you can do specific training for the omnium but I tend to do the stuff with the Team Pursuit girls which paid off well for me at worlds. I do some little bit here and there such a work behind the motorbike but nothing more than that really.”

Ed Clancy added that other than some minor adaptations to training, they will focus on their current team pursuit training to see them through the omnium: “When the other lads were out on the road this morning, I was on the track doing a motor paced session and a few little sprints in the middle to help my points race. I also watch recordings of previous race footage to hone my tactics. Really though I get most of what I need from training with the other team pursuit boys and in my road training.”

When asked if her card will now be marked in the event, especially with her seemingly unbeatable tactics in the elimination race Trott calmly asserts: “That’s my tactic, not everyone has got the speed to do what I do. Maybe in the points race they are going to try and steal some points off me but at the end of the day, they are going to have to come up with their own tactic to beat me.

“I didn’t really enter the London world cup in February with a specific plan other than to sit second wheel. In the elimination, it was just easier to pop people off the back.”

PODIUM OPPORTUNITIES

After Laura Trott’s world championship gold medal ride in the omnium in March this year and Ed Clancy narrowly missing out on a bronze medal to Danish rider Lasse Hansen it seems as though Great Britain will certainly be in the mix for podium placement when the omnium gets its Olympic inauguration on the boards starting with the men’s flying lap on Saturday 4 August at 10:30am.

Whether this will prove to be a great success in terms of medals or whether it will just be a supplementary event entered by already top class team pursuiters remains to be seen. With some great performances recently though, this event could be the remedy to Great Britain’s post Beijing woes at the loss of an event that we were traditionally so strong at, often dubbed the blue riband event on the track, the Individual Pursuit.

Ed Clancy summed up his feelings: “To be honest, I should ride a good kilo, pursuit and a good flying lap. I’ll probably take a bit of a kicking in the elimination, points and scratch though. Hopefully the bunch races will go okay and I will come away with a medal but I think everyone knows that the team pursuit is my main goal.”