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  Women's Madison: Is it time for the UCI to introduce the event?  
 
  March 18th 2015  
     
  The Madison - One of the most popular and highly demanded events on the track. There is always something happening. Despite the long history of the event it was first added to the UCI Track World Championships in 1995. The first World title went to Italian's Silvio Martinello and Marco Villa.

It was another five years before the first appearance at the Olympic Games in 2000. Brett Aitken and Scott McGrory emerged victorious ahead of Etienne De Wilde and Matthew Gilmore and inaugural World Champions Silvio Martinello and Marco Villa. Graeme Brown and Stuart O'Grady won four years later, with Juan Curuchet and Walter Perez in 2008 before with the shake up of track events on the Olympic programme the event was removed.

A lot of the support for the event has fallen since the removal from the Olympic programme with nations allocating resources at Olympic events. Despite that the Madison continues to remain one of the most popular events on the track. An area where momentum in growing around the event is in the women's Madison. Nations including Great Britain, United States and Netherlands have or hold a National Championship for women. But it is Australia that is leading the way in developing the discipline.




Olympic Champion Brett Aitken with dual Australian Championships Edmondson and Mundy

It is time for the UCI to introduce a Madison? A number of nations including Australia, Great Britain, United States and the Netherlands have held a women's Madison as part of their track national championships. With an increased emphasis on the event is it time for the UCI to introduce the event? Currently there are 19 UCI track events, ten for men and nine for women. The Madison is the one event that is yet to be added to the women's programme.

2007 saw the first women's Madison held in Australia, with then promising junior Annette Edmondson teaming up with Monique Hanley. "I remember being extremely excited at the idea of trying a completely new race," said Edmondson. "The thought of having a women's Madison was only a dream, so to be given the opportunity to make it a reality was very exciting.

"We were obviously a bit rusty, but Monique was completely into it. She had obviously practised slings in the past and knew exactly what to do," revealed Edmondson. "I'd just drop down, grab her hand, trust her to know what to and hope for the best!

"The first time she slung me in was exhilarating! She threw me in with so much speed I couldn't wipe the smile off my face!"

Dual World Champion and eight time medallist Amy Cure won the first big women's Madison in Australia at the end of 2012. "It was a real honour winning the demonstration Madison event at the National Championships," said Cure. "I had a lot of fun it was my first ever Madison.

"I hadn't done any training for it before hand apart from the last few days leading into the event, and I really had a lot of fun racing something completely different."

A year later Australia introduced the event at the National Championships. The inaugural title went to Annette Edmondson and Jessica Mundy. "It was a great feeling being able to say that we were the first ever Australian National Madison winners. I think it is definitely a moment we will never forget," said Mundy. The duo successfully defended their title at the end of 2014.


Annette Edmondson and Jessica Mundy change during 2015 Australian Championship

Reigning individual and team pursuit Junior World Champion Alex Manly took the win in the 2015 Bendigo Madison with Jess Mundy. "Winning the Madison was a huge deal for me. I have raced all the women's Madison's since they introduced the event at Nationals 3 years ago and this is the first time I have made it onto the podium.

"I love the atmosphere at Bendigo and would like to congratulate the organisers for including a Women's Madison and Criterium into the program. I see this as a significant step forward for Women's cycling and I am very happy to have been part of it."

Dual Junior World Champion on the track from 2014 Macey Stewart who finished second at the Australian Championships in December and the Bendigo Madison is also pleased with her results in the discipline. "I was very happy with second in both the National Madison and Bendigo Madison with two great Tassie partners! It's good to have results in such a high skill and physically challenging race against your name!"

Great Britain first held a women's Madison in 2009 with Alex Greenfield and Dani King emerging victorious. "I remember the first year British cycling had a women's Madison, and there were hardly any teams entered," said Hannah Walker. Despite the low entries in the first year it put the event on the map. "The next year there was an increase and it continued for a few years!"

In a sign of the increased level it was a close battle the following year. "I think we won two of four sprints! I remember thinking on that last sprint, when we were on the same points as Dani King and Elle Hopkins, I can't let Hannah Barnes down," said Walker. "Barnes slung me in with just over a lap to go and I won it from Alex Greenfield! Dani and Elle were second and Laura Trott and Harriet Owen third."

Reflecting on her 2010 win Hannah Barnes "Was it really that long ago? Time flies when you're having fun!," added a surprised Barnes. "Winning the Madison championships with Hannah Walker was really special.

"Hannah hadn't won a jersey before that event and I know how much it meant to her so that made it even more special to share the moment and podium with her."

Dual World Champion on the road Lucy Garner and now forging a career, as a professional on the road but is a two time British Champion in the Madison. "It was very special. At first me and my partner Harriet Owen entered just as a bit of fun as we both liked Madison sessions but had never raced it before," added Garner. "We worked really well together and took the win, which was an amazing feeling to win a national championship with your best friend."

Despite the loss of a number events in recent years Six Days remain some of the most popular track events on the calendar. Over the past four years SixDays Bremen has held a women's event in the omnium format. Hannah Walker has ridden all four editions and is eager to see a women's Madison incorporated. "I'd absolutely love to see a women's Madison incorporated into the six days Bremen event.

"I think there's enough quality female riders to make it happen and produce some fast, thrilling racing just like in the men's races.

"It would also give more women the opportunity to ride the six day event. Maybe other six day events around Europe would see how successful it would be they'd think about putting a women's Madison event on along side the men's."

Former rider and now director of Cycling Victoria and chair of the Cycling Australia women's commission Monique Hanley is a strong supporter of the women's Madison. "Support to introduce the Madison at Australian Championship level began with Cycling Victoria in 2011.

"At the time we made a commitment to change the sport in Victoria to be more welcoming to women, and this meant changing our approach to all aspects of cycling." Cycling Victoria has been leading the way in equality for women's cycling and the Madison is just one example of that. "We have proudly hosted the Australian Madison Championships for as long as I can remember, and we decided that we couldn't host such an event without a women's component.

"The success of both events has been a combination of factors: the passion from the women and their commitment to the event; the strong support received from Institute coaches, teams and clubs; and the commitment to change from the CA Track Commission to ensure the women's Madison became a National Championship in its own right."

Just months after the demonstration event at the 2013 National Championships the long running Bendigo Madison introduced a women's event. "Hosting the Bendigo women's Madison on the Saturday night has been a brilliant concept - it has allowed the event to develop in its own right and for the Bendigo and cycling communities to get behind it, which they are."


Georgia Baker and Macey Stewart change during 2015 Australian Championship

Someone who has been closely watching the rise of the women's Madison is Matthew Gilmore. Winner of 17 major Six day events, a Madison World Champion and Olympic silver medallist. Gilmore is now a highly respected coach, with his roles including track endurance coach at Cycling Australia with a focus on the omnium as well as head coach at the Tasmanian Institute of Sport.

"I definitely have seen the standard of racing improve," said Gilmore "The first time it was introduced the girls were a bit apprehensive and little bit scared of what it was and hadn't done as much training as what the guys had as they had never been taught this before.

"I know down here at the Tasmanian Institute of Sport I always try to incorporate some of that work in and the boys and girls have all mixed together. I have girls slinging in boys and vice versa and just teaming up together so I think across the board in Australia the whole standard of women's Madison racing is definitely improving."

On the question of the UCI introducing a women's Madison at a World Cup and World Championships Gilmore hopes it eventually reaches that level "A lot of water needs to go under the bridge before we get to the point. That means starting at international competitions, category 1 through to 3 races as the introduction point at elite level."

Funding is another consideration in developing the Madison for both men and women. "One of the big problems as well is the focus of the national federations. Australia had a Madison programme and was one of the things I headed up when I first started coaching six or seven years ago.

"Prioritising where the money goes and obviously with the Madison not being an Olympic discipline, the team pursuit and omnium are, that is where the focus will be."

Gilmore hopes other states and clubs follow the lead of the TIS. "It can be as simple as starting at the end of a club night. With the skills gained in the Madison racing it can be valuable experience. "It doesn't have to be for long, just between 15 and 30 minutes. Once again it is just that skill level that starts to rise. Incorporate your under 17's in there as well there is no reason why we can't get those started either. It is a very skilful activity that they carry through.

Hanley echoes the sentiments of Gilmore in how valuable the skills developed in a Madison can be. "There are so many benefits from Madison racing: race craft, teamwork, bike handling skill, mental sharpness and concentration."

"The race craft you develop from Madison racing is second to none. As the saying goes, 'if you can read a Madison, you can race anything'," added Hanley. "I would suggest starting at club level: Madisons can be used as part of training; Brunswick and Bendigo do this year round and constantly develop riders capable of racing these events. Work in with Institute coaches to host skill sessions."


Alex Manly and Lauren Perry change during 2015 Australian Championship

What do you like most about the Madison?

Hannah Barnes: I love the adrenaline and the tactics behind it. Communicating with your teammate, changes on the track. There is no time to lose concentration or fall asleep, you need to be on the ball at all times. In a split second you can be on the floor or even loose the race.

I also love how hard it is. Everyone is trying to get a lap or go for the sprint. Knowing you are going to sling your teammate in and have some time to recover means you can intentionally go that little bit harder or that little bit deeper.

Annette Edmondson: The speed. It's such a fast race and with so many slings you really have to be on your game the whole time. It is both mentally and physically demanding.

Lucy Garner: Its something different. I loved the thrill of it and the excitement that it brings to people watching it. Its always full gas and its nice to share the moment with a team mate when you win.

Alex Manly: I love the team aspect of the Madison. Riders put their heart and soul into the race not just for themselves but for their teammate too. The shear risk of a Madison is adrenalin pumping and anything can happen. It's my favourite event on both the road and track. I love it.

Jessica Mundy: I really like being able to have the effort and recovery aspects. It is so different to the other track events. It is very tactical making sure you get the changes in the correct places and working off any weaknesses or mistakes made by other teams. I really get a buzz slinging my partner into contention within the races.

Macey Stewart: I love the adrenaline you get in Madisons. They are fast and so much is happening at once so you have to have such a high level of concentration - it's scary at times. At the same time though, it's so physically challenging that you give everything into slinging your partner as hard as you can when it gets down to the nitty gritty, that the adrenaline overcomes the fear!

Hannah Walker: I love how thrilling and exciting it is, the adrenaline you feel is second to none. I love having a partner to work with to achieve success, as I know I have to give 100% so I don't let them down. The hardest thing in the Madison I think is the timing; changing with your partner at the perfect point, not to far out from a sprint but not to close to the finish line of the sprint so you momentarily loose momentum. Sometimes the race is so full on you don't have time to think about how much the legs are hurting or your lungs feeling like their popping out, because you know you can't afford to miss a change, if you do, it could be race over if your partner has done a big effort for a sprint or attacked etc and you don't give them a chance to recover!

Did racing a Madison help build your bunch racing skills both for the track and road?

Hannah Barnes: Any race you do will help you so much for future races. Gives you the experience and confidence. Madison definitely helps you with racing skills. It also teaches you a lot about racing tactics and how important communication with teammates is.

Annette Edmondson: Not really, but it's made me realise how fast my reaction times are! It's always very hectic and you have to be able to react very quickly.

Alex Manly: My skills have definitely improved since racing Madisons. I think its really important more women give it a shot. It teaches you to pay attention to so many things at once, to hold your bike up better and helps you ride with more confidence.

Lucy Garner: Definitely, I think my years on the track helped a lot with road racing. It is very tight and compacted on the track and very technical, you have to use your head a lot. You have to be in the position at the right time, so I think that has definitely helped as I am a sprinter and need to know where to be at the right time. I think training on the track in the winter is very good for the road season.

There haven't been many opportunities but have you seen the standard of racing in the women's Madison improve over the last few years?

Annette Edmondson: Absolutely, but it's still so new. The number of teams racing at the 2015 National Championships was incredible, but we still need more racing to be able to practise and then we'll start to see the standard improve.

Monique Hanley: Definitely. The standard and depth has both increased. In the first year I think we only had eight teams for the National 'demonstration' event. This year we were maxed out. Watching the sprints at the Bendigo Madison this year was amazing: the intensity was incredible and a real credit to the teams.

Alex Manly: From the first Madison I did the standard has definitely improved, however we still have a long way to go.

Jessica Mundy: I definitely think riders are becoming more confident riding the event. After seeing the event, others have started up and are giving it a go, which is great to see. Also the following of the event is getting more recognition within womenís cycling.

Macey Stewart: I've always looked at Madisons as a lot of fun and a new experience, but now that women's Madison's are becoming a more frequent event on our race calendar it's definitely a skill/race that women are and will be focusing more on perfecting - hopefully ready for a UCI level women's Madison in the future! The standard is already improving in every Madison I enter, so that's a great sign!

Hannah Walker: I remember the first year British cycling had a women's Madison, I think it was 2009 and there were hardly any teams entered, the next year there was an increase and it continued for a few years! For some reason there was no national women's Madison incorporated into the 2014 track championships, which is a shame, hopefully they'll have a championship in 2015. I never really had a chance to represent the jersey with Hannah, only at track league! It'd be good to have a women's Madison at the Revolution meetings in the UK in the winter! Maybe that'll be the next thing they do?

Australia look like they have a good women's scene in the Madison I'd love to go over and race the Bendigo Madison, that looks fun and fast racing!

Do you think it is time for the UCI to introduce a women's Madison?

Hannah Barnes: I do! It's one of the most exciting races you can do. I know so many women that would love to have a shot a being Madison World Champion.

Amy Cure: I think it would be very good to see the UCI introduce this race. It is always so good to watch as a spectator. I really enjoy watching the men race this event every year at the World Championships. It really is an event that shows teamwork, strength, skill and intelligence all in the one race.

Annette Edmondson: Definitely. I'm all about equal opportunity so I cannot see why there isn't one or wasn't one in the first place. It's as simple as that!

Lucy Garner: I think it would be a great idea. It is a thrilling race, which people love to watch and I think most women have already trained a lot doing Madison, as it is a good intense session to do. I think bringing in a women's Madison will draw a new attention and crowd to women's racing which is good for the growth of women's cycling.

Monique Hanley: In my mind there is no question this should be included in the World Championships as an official event. The USA already hold their own Madison Championships, and we had interest from New Zealand to race in ours. There are women's six day (and three day) events in Europe. There doesn't need to be a minimum number of countries hosting Madison events: no one was racing Omnium events before they were introduced. It just needs to happen!

Alex Manly: It is one of my dreams for the UCI to introduce a women's Madison. I would be over the moon if it happened.

Jessica Mundy: Having a Madison event for women on the UCI calendar would be a massive step for womenís cycling and itís really a great event for spectators.

Lauren Perry: I think it would be awesome to have a women's Madison as a UCI event, the sooner the better! Another step forward in making men's and women's cycling equal!

Macey Stewart: I think introducing a UCI level women's Madison would be a huge step for women's cycling on an international level. I think it's a misconception that us women 'aren't skilled enough' for a women's Madison, and I'm sure that with more Madison racing on the calendar we can only improve our skills and make for a more exciting spectator event.

Hannah Walker: I certainly think it's about time the UCI introduced a women's Madison, especially into the world champs or world cups. It's one of the most loved events in track cycling, it's fast and fun as well as anything can happen, not necessarily the team with the most points wins, if a team takes a lap at the end of the race it could be game over for the other teams! Every other event at the Worlds is matched equally across the board in sprint and endurance, it's only the Madison, which is still a men's only event! Although I'm not sure of any other countries or federations who have Madison races or national championships other than a handful; Australia, the Netherlands maybe more? So maybe if more countries had a national Madison championship the UCI would see a want and need for a female version Madison! Fingers crossed they do!
 
 
       
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