On the eve of the opening round of the 2008-09 UCI Track Cycling World Cup Classics in Manchester, Great Britain, USA Cycling announced a revamped track programme designed primarily to expand international track racing opportunities for emerging talent.
With an emphasis on cultivating the next generation of US track racers, the programme will closely align itself with existing European-based development programmes currently utilized by USA Cycling.
USA Cycling aims to identify and develop a deeper pool of track racing talent by providing increased exposure to world-class competition at various non-traditional events. Traditionally, US track riders have been exposed to limited international competition with national teams competing at just four World Cup races annually. Instead, the new programme will expand its scope to provide opportunity at International Cycling Union (UCI) Track Calendar events, including European Grand Prix races and Six-Days. Additionally, USA Cycling will also conduct several domestic-based track training camps.
"We've already built a successful model for athlete development," said USA Cycling Director of Athletics, Pat McDonough. "Now it's just a matter of specifically applying it to track riders. We've shown in other disciplines that consistent exposure to international competition is the most effective way to develop world-class athletes, so we needed to expand upon that idea for our track athletes. In the past, sending a team to four World Cups a year didn't provide our athletes with the amount of high-level racing necessary to improve. We expect this new endeavor to address that."
The initial emphasis will be placed on men's and women's endurance programming, followed by a long-term sprint programme scheduled to be implemented in 2010. Both the men's and women's endurance programmes will focus its efforts on developing athletes who are relatively new to track cycling at the international level. Both programmes will use the infrastructure and resources already established by USA Cycling for its U-23 National Team in Izegem, Belgium and its Women's National Team in Lucca, Italy.
Currently, the US boasts athletes who are capable of being very competitive in specific endurance-oriented events on the track. For these athletes, consistent exposure to international-level track cycling will complement the acquired skill set and physiology that are necessary for endurance cycling as a whole.
Under the new program's philosophy, USA Cycling will also work closely with American-based UCI-registered track trade teams to field squads for the five World Cup events this season. The trade team structure, which complements the national team's efforts, provides athletes with additional support to attend World Cup races.
For the 2008-09 season, the United States has six UCI-registered track trade teams which feature a total of 18 athletes. The six squads are the most by any one country as both Great Britain and Spain have the second-most with four each. American trade teams include Hawk Relay Cycling, Ouch Pro Cycling, Proman Racing Team, Rock Racing, South Bay Wheelmen and Verducci Breakaway Racing. The World Cup opener in Manchester will feature two US riders - Shelly Olds and Becky Quinn.
USA Cycling will not field a national team for the season's first three World Cup events in Manchester, Melbourne, Australia and Cali, Colombia. However a national team comprised of development athletes will represent the United States at round four in Beijing and the fifth and final race in Copenhagen this winter.
"Because of the support of several track trade teams, many of our top athletes will continue to compete at World Cup races," continued McDonough. "The alliance we've created allows us to better invest our resources by redirecting them into the development of the next generation."
In conjunction with the new track initiatives, USA Cycling also released information pertaining to its direct athlete funding programs. An updated version of the 2009 Podium Program is now available, as is information on the 2009 High Performance Incentive Program. Both documents, as well as a complete outline detailing the specifics of USA Cycling's new track programme, are available on USA Cycling's website.
On Thursday, USA Cycling also released selection procedures for the 2009 UCI Track World Championships in Pruszkow, Poland, March 26-30. The most notable change from previous years is the elimination of the USA Cycling Track Talent Pool structure. Before, athletes needed to be in the Talent Pool to be eligible for major international competition, however in 2009 the world championship squad will be selected based on various parameters including 2008 world championship performance, time standards and additional international results.
For complete selection procedures for the 2009 UCI Track World Championships, visit www.usacycling.org/forms/selection/2009TrackWorldsTeamCriteria.pdf.
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