As you may have gathered by now, as I type it’s currently the Track Cycling World Championships, a chance for the world’s top track cyclists to win those coveted rainbow jerseys. Anyone who’s read any articles about the event or watched approx 30 seconds of the TV footage will also know that this is the beginning of the road to Rio, with many of the teams fielding a very junior squad to give them as much experience at world standard competition level before the Olympic games in 2016. The majority of Team GB are under 21 with riders such as Jason Kenny (24) and Dani King (22) looking like veterans in their field. Add to that riders such as World champion and 2 times Olympic gold medallist Laura Trott who’s only 20 and its evident that Team GB’s Olympic campaign is off to a very strong start.
On Friday the Minsk Arena saw Laura Trott, Dani King and newcomer Elinor Barker win the women’s team pursuit once again to reclaim the title of world champions, a position they have only had to abdicate once in the event’s history. However this year’s race also held special precedence as it was the last time it would ever be run in its current format of three riders over 3km before making the move up to 4 riders over 4km like the men’s race.
For teams like Great Britain and Australia this switch shouldn’t be an issue, such is the depth of talent in their training camps. Team GB had the luxury of losing Jo Rowsell, a member of it’s London 2012 gold medal team, to road racing, drafting in Elinor Barker who has only been competing as a senior for 2 months and still winning the world championships by well over a second. Team GB, as well as Australia also have the luxury of being a well oiled machine with a lot of funding behind it, yet what of the other countries that don’t have the support or enthusiasm behind it. The USA is a nation of sporting junkies, from track athletics to swimming, showing as much enthusiasm for school level as it does for the national squads, yet they struggle to field a team for the track cycling. During London 2012, although claiming silver in the women’s team pursuit the overall squad fielded by USA stood at 6 members. Compare that to Team GB’s 13 or Germany’s 11 and you can see where the divide may open.
If a sporting nation such as the USA, with a population far larger than many of the other countries competing at the world champs currently put together can’t field a full team, races like the 4x4km could open up and build a further gap in the women’s race. Although a rivalry with another team can add to the drama of the race, its going to get a bit dull for both the riders and the spectators if nobody else comes to threaten their position.
Image from http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/cycling (thanks!)