Cyclists face challenges on and off the road in new team format
The cycling competition at the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018, which begins on day 7, will be an exciting experiment combining road and mountain bike events designed to test riders to their limits.
For the first time, athletes will compete across five disciplines: road race, team time trial, criterium, cross-country eliminator and cross-country short circuits. Winners will emerge from areas in which they are strong – but also by tackling disciplines they are not used to. Cycling will now be a team event too, rather than a quest for solo glory. Pairs of riders from the same NOC will participate in the women’s combined team event and men’s combined team event, accumulating points for their partnership.
The competition begins with the team time trial. Two riders go out together, aiming to drag each other along as a unit: the final time is taken from the second rider to cross the line. The road race scheduled for Sunday 14 October is a mass start, with three laps of 20km. Riders head off-road on Monday 15 October for the cross-country eliminator. After timed qualifying laps, the fastest 32 go head to head, racing around the track, with four riders in each heat. A knockout format culminates in a small final and big final. On Tuesday 16 October, riders will take on a cross-country short circuit. Twenty riders from each gender will go in the qualifiers, with the top 10 making the final.
Finally, there is the criterium on Wednesday 17 October. This has a mass start on the road, with riders completing 16 laps of a short course. Every four laps there is a sprint for points, and double points are awarded on the final sprint. Riders can catch up and lap others, and the winner is the rider with the most laps completed.
With all races completed, it is then over to the organisers to work out which men’s and women’s team have the most combined points – and award gold, silver and bronze.
Great Britain rider Sean Flynn is relishing the challenge: “It’s nice to race in teams, when we usually race as individuals,” he said. “I’m very good friends with my partner, Harry Birchill, so we will win or lose as a team. We’ll work really hard because we won’t want to let each other down. I think that element of it is really good, and a bit different.”Flynn and Birchill are mountain bike specialists, but Flynn is hoping they can compete successfully on the road. “Not all mountain bikers race on the road, but I’ve done some of that too, so that will hopefully help us out,” said Flynn. “I actually think it will be really interesting tactically. There will be some road racers who haven’t been on mountain bikes, so they may look really strong in one event and struggle in another. Some teams have got one mountain biker and one road racer, to try to gain an advantage that way, so it will be fun to see how it all works out. I think it’s going to make things fun. The lead could change hands a lot between events,” he concluded