2016 Rio Olympic Qualifying Explained – Part 1 – The World Cups

So the UCI and the IOC have finally come to an agreement over the details of how track cyclist will begin to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics.  It's about freak'n time!!  Before I get into the breakdown of how the qualification process will work, let me just say that I am thoroughly annoyed that this document has just now been released.  I think it is total BS that all the other Olympic cycling disciplines had their Olympic qualifying procedure before track cycling did because our Olympic qualifying has essentially already begun.  Sure the Olympic points accumulation won't begin until the continental championships and world cups begin.  But now each individual athlete must qualify through individual UCI points to compete at the world cups and our UCI/world cup points accumulation began last September already when the list of qualified athletes for the 2013/2014 world cup season was announced.  So really we are theoretically now 8 months into the possible 12 for accumulating UCI points for world cups and we are just now finding out that this upcoming world cup season will count towards Olympic points.  Sure this follows the trend of the London qualifying period but that doesn't mean it was to be assumed that the period would be the same.  So for any athletes who might have been waiting for the process to be announced, they now only have 4 months to aciculate enough points and climb high enough on the ranking to be qualified for the 2014/2015 world cup season.  Which is total BS in my opinion.  And just to add to the frustration of this process, the tracking of UCI points relative to the world cup qualifying is not clearly available to the athletes/NGB's.  Also, the process of qualifying for the world cups is only outlined in the UCI rule book and the finite details of the process are not explicitly communicated.  To better explain what I mean I will use just the sprint criteria given and how the last season of world cups went.  The rules state the following:  

  • Top 45 ranked riders with a minimum of 90 UCI points will qualify for the sprints.  
  • Of these 45, no more than 2 per team (national or trade team) will be allowed to race the sprints at a world cup and no more than 4 riders per nationalities across all the teams will be allowed to race at a give world cup.  

So this means that some of the typical 10+ Germans in the top 45 of the UCI eligibility ranking would have to be removed to not exceed the quotas.  But this leaves a many different scenarios unanswered in my opinion.  Such as the following:

  • Do they remove down to just 2 athletes per nation as qualified in the 45?
  • Or do they remove to a maximum of 4 to allow for trade teams?  
  • Are they then "named" spots revered for the athletes that earned the points?  
  • Or do they become spots for the NGB to fill at their discretion?
  • Will only a total of 2 individual athletes per nation be able to compete in the whole world cup season?
  • Or will 4 be allowed?
  • Or will more than 4 be allowed? 

None of this is clarified within the rules.  However, after reviewing the results from the last world cup season I have interpreted the following based off the number of athletes that got to compete at the various world cups from the larger nations and which teams the competed for:

  • Only 2 spots per nation would be allocated within the top 45
  • Those 2 spots can be filled by each NGB according to their liking so long as each athlete has a minimum of 90 UCI points
  • Track trade teams may also enter 2 athletes so long as each athlete has a minimum of 90 UCI points (no need to be in the top 45)

I have determined this to be true by analyzing how many different athletes Australia and Germany used in the sprints across national and trade teams across all legs of the world cups.  I have recorded which athletes raced which world cups in the sprints and for which team they raced at each world cup to show that more than a total of 4 athletes were "eligible" to compete per nation during the world cup season.

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From my interpretation this defines that both Germany and Australia had 2 athletes within the top 45 ranking after additional athletes from each nation were removed from the top 45 for the sprints 2 months out from the first leg of the world cup.  Each nation was then free to enter whichever athletes met the 90 UCI points criteria for their national team spots at each world cup.  The trade teams were able to attend any world cup they liked and enter any athlete they liked so long as each athlete had 90 UCI points and so long as total number of riders per nationality did not exceed 4.  This allowed them to have a total of 5 and 6 different athletes for Germany and Australia respectively compete in the sprints at world cups during the 2013/2014 season even though some of those athletes were not the top 2 per nation and/or were not in the general top 45 on the eligibility ranking.  Beyond confusing to say the least.  Especially when none of these finite details are explicitly clarified in the rules.

Then, just to further complicate matters, the world cup eligibility ranking points accumulation period is not at all clearly defined.  The only "date" that is given is the cut off of date for points accumulation which is 2 months prior to the first leg of the upcoming world cup season.  What is not clearly defined is when the period for points accumulation began.  Did points start accumulating immediately following the cut off date (September 2013) for the last world cup season?  Or will the start date for points accumulation be based on the calendar year starting January 1?  Or will the only included points be from after the 2014 World Championships?  None of this is defined in the rules.

So perhaps one could just go check the current UCI eligibility ranking listed on the UCI website, right?  Wrong.  The eligibility ranking on the UCI website is a complete cluster f***.  The eligibility raking listed on the UCI website is a seemingly 12 month rolling accumulation of relevant points (a sum of only the top 5 point scoring results and from only eligible events).  This is incredibly problematic because one month you could be sitting on top of the eligibility ranking using points from 12 months prior, then the next month your results from a year ago are removed and you could potentially fall a tremendous amount of places.  Yes, you can sit there and figure out which points will be past date by the September cut off (if they are using a 12 month prior start date for accumulation).  But to do that across every athlete from every nation is utterly ridiculous.  It is mind blowing to me that the UCI is incapable of clearly defining start and cut off dates for points accumulation for the athletes and NGB's and even more mind blowing that they can't keep an accurate database of the relevant races for that period.

I have heard many different versions of how the rules can possibly be interpreted and any of them could be correct.  I cannot believe that such simple clarification cannot be given out directly and is instead left up to the interpretation of the NGB's and athletes only to potentially find out at the end of it all that they made a incorrect assumption about the rules.  Especially with world cup qualifying being so crucial to the Olympic qualification process.  A process that is already underway.

Up next:  Part 2 - The 2016 Qualifying Process