Track Para-Cycling and the UCI… again….

This week I was really happy to see that the UCI has announced that there will be Para-Cycling Track World Championships in 2015 and 2016 – and it probably says something about my expectations that having a World champs every year, in line with their own rules, is a step forward, but as I wrote about last year, and as Irish para-cyclist Colin Lynch’s open letter to the UCI was protesting, there wasn’t a UCI-level track para-cycling event at all since early 2012, and the 2014 Para-cycling Track World Champs were announced very late – and when they did happen, were given, to be polite, sub-standard coverage by the UCI.

So it felt like maybe after that debacle, the UCI had turned a corner, and are at least fulfilling the minimum standards for the sport…  but no.  The 2016 Worlds are vital prep for the Rio Paralympics, not only for riders, but also for national team selections, are in Pietermaritzburg, an outdoor velodrome, with no banking, that’s in Imperial distance – 463m long, according to USA rider Jennifer Schuble.   I have no words, so I’ll leave it to superstar Jody Cundy:

There are so many things wrong with this – riders will have to prepare for completely different conditions and track for Worlds than for the Paralympics – and how riders who need to hit a time qualification for their national team to take them to Rio.  And as Jennifer says, the minimal banking and wind will make the conditions harder to deal with, the more disabled a rider is.

It just seems strange to me.  Apeldoorn, in the Netherlands, is hosting the 2015 Worlds, so if Pietermartizburg has to be used, why not have Worlds there next year, and a proper velodrome for 2016?  And are there really no other countries willing to put on Worlds?  As a Brit, I’m shocked that the UK wouldn’t put Para-cycling events, especially since we have three World-class indoor velodromes in London, Glasgow and Manchester, and a fourth being built right now in Derby.  There was so much talk about the “legacy” of the Olympics and Paralympics in this country, so what better way to show it that to have the pre-Rio para-cycling here?  And if not in the UK…

Personally I think having separate events is part of the problem, and if I had my way, I’d turn the able-bodied Track World Cups and World Championships into integrated events, and have disabled and able-bodied cyclists racing alongside each other.   I couldn’t get tickets to the last two UK Track World Cups because tickets sold out, and it’s the same in other countries, so even if it’s not possible for all the World Cups, have at least 1 milestone event every year, and integrated Worlds.  Para-cycling is cycling – fast, exciting, adrenaline-fuelled, and the riders have all these amazing stories and personalities.  And I swear, tandem sprinting is my favourite of all track disciplines, even if I do have to hide my eyes most of the time, because how do they not crash?  It’s a stunning sport – put it all together, and it’s win-win, showing the athletes are all elite, and giving fans the chance to see even more racing.

I have no idea if this decision can change, and I haven’t seen any justification for this from the UCI (if they say “no one else will host”, they need to look at making hosting easier – if they talk about globalisation etc, ask them why it’s the para-cyclists, rather than the able-bodied riders who have the disadvantages of that agenda) and I’ve no idea what we, fans, can do to change things.  But it can’t be too much to ask that the track para-cyclists get the bare minimum of standards, can it?


4 thoughts on “Track Para-Cycling and the UCI… again….

  1. Maybe it’s time for para-cycling to break away from the UCI and create a new governing body for this side of the sport. The UCI has proven time and time again that they have no interest in this branch of the sport,indeed any branch of the sport other than men’s professional cycling. The Olympics would make this hard to achieve but in time maybe it’s possible.

    • I do wonder how it fits with the Paralympic movement as a whole – and I wonder about the women’s stuff too. I’m interested in Enduro MTB, which is definitely not part of the UCI…

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