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Page last updated at 17:38 GMT, Wednesday, 28 October 2009

GB cyclists shocked by 2012 plan

WORLD CUP SERIES, MANCHESTER
Venue: Manchester Velodrome Dates: 30 Oct - 1 Nov
Coverage: Watch live on BBC Two, the red button and BBC Sport website (UK only); live commentary on BBC 5 live sports extra

Geraint Thomas
Thomas won team pursuit gold in Beijing - an event which will stay

Top British cyclists Rebecca Romero and Geraint Thomas have labelled proposed changes to the Olympic track cycling programme "unnecessary".

Organisers want to cut the individual pursuit, the points race and the madison from the Games ahead of 2012.

"I was very shocked," said Romero. "I think it's too radical and I can't understand the reasoning behind it."

Thomas added: "It just leaves two events for us, but there's nothing we can do about it. It's disappointing."

There are currently seven male and three female track events, but the plans would remove the men's and women's individual pursuits, men's and women's points races, and the men's Madison.

The Olympic programme would instead focus on sprints, keirins, team sprints, team pursuits and omniums for both sexes.

I'm just disappointed that I won't be able to go and defend my title in London

Rebecca Romero

The new programme would leave Bradley Wiggins and Romero, who beat team-mate Wendy Houvenaghel to individual pursuit gold in Beijing last August, without individual titles to defend.

The proposals, intended to ensure both genders compete in an equal number of events, are set to be ratified by the International Olympic Committee in December.

"I'm all in favour of making it fairer between males and females, but I just think these proposed changes are ludicrous and could potentially destroy track cycling," stated Romero.

"I thought changes to the Olympic programme were supposed to create inclusion and I just see that it will create exclusion to have such big changes.

"If the IOC let it go through then there has to be some reasoning behind it - I'd like to have it explained to me."

Romero also competed in the points race in Beijing, so has lost two chances at a medal on home soil in 2012, while sprinters such as Victoria Pendleton emerge from the changes relatively unscathed.

"I think we should move towards equality between males and females in the medals available, but I just think this isn't equality in terms of sprint and endurance riders," said Romero.

Rebecca Romero
Romero may not have the chance to defend her 2008 gold medal

"You're taking away, essentially, with regards to the individual pursuit, one of the purest forms of competition that there is on the track for an athlete.

"I'm just disappointed that I won't be able to go and defend my title in London."

British Cycling have already implemented the proposed changes into their programme, leading Romero to withdraw from last week's British Championships and this week's Track World Cup, which begins at the Manchester Velodrome on Friday.

"The individual pursuit is no longer considered an Olympic event or a priority," added Romero.

"I guess British Cycling are 100% sure that the change is going through, so straight away I said we'll have to run with these changes and I'll start my preparation as a road cyclist."

Romero's only chance of an individual Olympic title is by switching to the road time-trial - though, as she won rowing silver in the quadruple sculls at the Athens Games of 2004 before switching to cycling, she has plenty of experience at switching events.

The 29-year-old also has some history on the road, winning the national title in 2006 as she was making her transition from the boat to the bike.

But she admitted the challenge of transforming herself into a road cyclist capable of winning Olympic medals is an "unknown".

Welshman Thomas said he was sad that some of Great Britain's strongest track cycling events seem set to be omitted from the 2012 Games.

"Obviously it's not good news for us because it just leaves two events for us," he said.

606: DEBATE

"But there's nothing we can do about it. We can only do the races that they put up for us so it's disappointing."

Thomas, who won team pursuit gold in Beijing, won the national championships with a time of 4mins 18.418secs in Manchester at the weekend.

In most years that would have been enough to win a world championship or Olympic medal, and the result highlighted his recovery from a serious road accident in March.

But his hopes of challenging for individual pursuit glory in London are evaporating.

He told BBC Radio Wales Sport: "I was hoping to ride the individual pursuit and team pursuit in London, but obviously that may not be there any more."

Thomas described his performance last weekend as "not bad" as he looked forward to the first round of the World Cup being held at the same venue this coming weekend.

"It was the sort of time that would have got me a medal at the Olympics last year and it was good to get up and finally be racing well this year because obviously I had a big crash in March and been out for most of the season.

"So it's good to just be back and racing well and to do two times like that was really encouraging for this weekend."



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see also
Medal glee for Thomas and James
23 Oct 09 |  Cycling
Thomas is tipped for road success
14 Sep 09 |  Cycling
James tracking down 2012 place
10 Sep 09 |  Cycling
James wins double gold in Moscow
16 Aug 09 |  Cycling


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