Peloton Watch
  Dual Olympic Champion Joanna Rowsell Shand astonished by changes to track regulations by UCI  
  October 13th By Joanna Rowsell Shand  
  Joanna Rowsell leads GB women's team pursuit at 2012 Track World Championships. © John Veage  
  The UCI announced today a host of changes to their regulations. Whilst I welcomed the news of the introduction of a women's Madison (the only event remaining at the track World Championships where there is currently just a men's race) I was astonished at some of the other changes.

Most people will be talking about the drastic overhaul of the omnium, and whatever you think about the changes I think it's a shame they continue to alter the event rather than build up a history. However the changes which alarmed me the most are that the Team Pursuit qualifying round will now be run with two teams on the track at the same time.

To the lesser educated spectator this may seem like no big deal, and in fact a great time saving method in an already packed programme at World Cups and World Champs. However as an experienced Team Pursuit rider this change seems nothing short of absurd.

Having another team on the track can make a huge difference to how fast you ride due to the circulating air the other team creates. Without getting too scientific this can result in 1-2 tenths of a second per lap faster compared to being alone on the track, and is why finals are always quicker than qualifying times currently. However what makes this such a crazy change is even though you are racing against the clock to qualify the fastest time, the other team on the track you are drawn with will have a direct impact on how fast you go.

A slower team will mean you gain from their slipstream, which could work out being a huge unfair advantage. But also what if you get a team that is significantly slower and you have to pass them during your ride? A difficult manoeuvre to execute and the extra distance travelled would cost you time. Or what if a team starts fast and catches you then slows? You are not allowed to overtake them once they have overtaken you, so you will be stuck going at their pace. There could be huge differences in times for a "good draw" compared to a "bad draw".

Even worse - what if there is an odd number of teams entered? A team who has to qualify in a heat on their own will straight away be at a disadvantage as there will be no circulating air.

How will teams be seeded? The fairest way would be to have the fastest teams qualify against each other, but how would you rank this? Nations often send development teams to World Cups, which could result in a young team with a high UCI nation ranking up against a high seeded team. The regulations say they will decide the seedings based on expected time by the team manager. But the time hoped for can often be very different to the time produced, as most athletes will know.

The advantage of this change - we could see World Records broken as it is for the qualifying ride that riders are most fresh, combined with the circulating air from another team. But as I outlined earlier, this could very much be down to luck of the draw and how you interact with the other team on the track.

Away from Team Pursuit I was surprised there is no change to a 3 woman Team Sprint and women still race for 500m rather than a kilo in the TT event on the track. Also why no U23 women's RR and TT at the road Worlds Champs when we currently can have U23 women's events in Cyclo-Cross and Mountain Biking Worlds?

You won't see me at the upcoming European Championships or Glasgow World Cup next month as I have my belated honeymoon coming up (yay!) but I will be watching and eagerly waiting to see how all the changes are received by riders competing.
 © 2016