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Road To 2012
Making It To The Line: Olympic Qualification Explained
Words And Photography By Luke Webber
Posted March 1 2011
Before considering who might represent Team GB at the London Olympics, there's the small matter of actually qualifying riders. Luke Webber examines why every day until May 23 2012 counts, what the process entails and the chances of Britain's first female mountain biker taking to the line in eight years.
The race for mountain bike Olympic Gold has already begun. It may have got off to a false start - thanks to changes in UCI regulations - but today the competition to secure a starting place in mountain bikings most prestigious race is underway and riders are preparing for their most important season to date.
That's because 2011 is the last full year of racing within the UCIs qualification period, which runs from May 23 2010 to May 23 2012. Including such high-scoring events as the World Championships, World Cup and Olympic Test Event, the coming season will shape the all-important nation ranking.
HOW QUALIFICATION WORKS
Olympic nations have two twelve-month periods in which to secure UCI points, running consecutively from May 23 2010, to May 23 2012. During these two periods, the three highest UCI point scoring individuals from each nation and each sex, will accrue a points total for their country. Following the first 12 months, the points totals will be zeroed, before points scoring takes place for a second year.
Following this period both sets of points are combined and each point-scoring nation is awarded a place on the start line, in line with the points scored.
For men, a maximum of three riders per nation can enter the race. The top five point scoring nations over the two year periods qualify three riders to the start line, while a position from sixth to thirteenth guarantees two starters. Countries ranked 14-24 get a single place.
For women, a maximum of two riders per nation can enter the race. The top eight nations take two places, while positions nine to eighteen take one.
The Road To 2012 isn't always paved evenly; as a rocky descent on the London 2012 shows.
But while travelling the world chasing points may be the answer to gaining positions on the start line, such an approach can detract from riders being at their peak for the day that really matters. That means British Cycling's Olympic Mountain Bike Coach, Phil Dixon, has a testing balance to strike in the final full season of racing.
Dixon's ultimate responsibility is to deliver riders to the line with the best opportunity of winning Olympic medals, something mutually exclusive to qualifying places in the first instance.
As the final full season of mountain bike racing begins prior to the London Games, Britain is in a good position; currently ninth position in the men's standings and fifteenth position in the women's. Should the situation hold it would mean Britain's first female representation in the event since 2004 and a continuation of two male competitors on the line.
England's only World Cup will be a key points scorer for the British
However, there are fifteen months of competition remaining before the May 23 deadline, after which another race starts; the pursuit of a good gridding. That outcome will be decided by the UCI rankings compiled following the World Cup event in late July.
With the first UCI-sanctioned races just weeks away, the Dalby Forest World Cup in May and an Olympic Test Event in August, 2011 looks to define British Olympic qualification on both home soil and internationally.
Whatever the outcome, British Cycling will be there, every step of the way on the Road To 2012.