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Experimental line-ups diminishing world championships, says Richard Moore

Richard Moore Posted 21st February 2013 view comments

A few weeks ago, at the Team Sky training camp in Majorca, Sir Dave Brailsford was asked about the world track cycling championships in Minsk, Belarus.

"Quite frankly, I don't think it's got any bearing on Rio," said Brailsford. He spoke about this being "a good time to work on other elements," to blood youngsters and experiment with new line-ups more than three years before the next Olympic Games.

Britain should prioritise the cycling world championships, says Richard Moore

Britain should prioritise the cycling world championships, says Richard Moore

The Minsk world championships are now upon us, having got underway on Wednesday. Being the first post-Olympic worlds lends them a unique, which is to say diminished, atmosphere and importance.

Four years ago in Pruszkow, Poland, it was the same. On the back of a dominant display at the Beijing Olympics, the British team went in with the general public expecting great things - a first. The first night was widely described as 'disappointing.' By the second the question was, what has happened?

The great pity is that all this experimentation comes at the cost of the world championships themselves, which are considered entirely in terms of the Olympics rather than as a significant event in their own right.

Richard Moore
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By the end, with GB winning two gold medals and placing third in the medals table, topped by a resurgent Australia (which made it worse), it was official: the wheels had fallen off the bandwagon. Brailsford had warned in Beijing that the others would raise their game and catch up. It had taken them only seven months.

As London 2012 demonstrated, this was nonsense. But for most of the championships in Poland, Brailsford and his head coach, Shane Sutton, sat in the stands observing proceedings from a distance and probably talking more about Team Sky, which they were in the process building, than about what was happening in front of them.

This time, Brailsford hasn't travelled to Minsk. Sutton is in charge. It highlights that these championships are not only a chance for untested riders to prove themselves, but also represent a chance for coaches to step up and assume more responsibility.

Yet it's not even clear that these championships will tell us very much about the young riders who are being given a chance. So much can change in such a short time. Recall that in Pruszkow four years ago the name Laura Trott, who would become a double gold medallist in London, meant nothing. Four years before that, in Los Angeles, Jason Kenny was unknown.

Pity

The great pity is that all this experimentation comes at the cost of the world championships themselves, which are considered entirely in terms of the Olympics rather than as a significant event in their own right.

While the rainbow jersey awarded to the world road race champion is regarded as the second most prized garment in the sport, the equivalent on the track offers its wearer a fraction of the prestige and accompanying rewards.

It is the legacy of neglect. While new velodromes are springing up from Glasgow to Minsk, very little is being done to promote and develop track cycling.

Indeed, while the governing body, the UCI, has gone to great lengths to globalise road racing - or take it to 'new markets' - efforts to develop track cycling seem almost non-existent. The World Cup series is a shambles. The world championships are being held in Minsk reportedly because no one else wanted them. The USA - which should be a major cycling nation - has sent a team of one.

The biggest responsibility for this lies with the world governing body. But this isn't to absolve Britain and other national teams, who could perhaps do more. Notwithstanding funding considerations, as the world's pre-eminent track cycling nation, Britain could make the championships more of a priority, rather than just seeing them as a first rehearsal for Rio.

For the sport to flourish, it needs more than the Olympics, especially with the Games track cycling programme so pared down and subject to constant tinkering. Track cycling needs a meaningful world championship.

Twitter.com/richardmoore73

Comments (1)

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Nick Porter says...

Very true It's the sprinters who have the least chance to race in significant events. As for cities staging the event, how would London manage the visiting teams accommodation now the Olympic Village is repurposed?

Posted 09:41 22nd February 2013

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