You may have read about it already: Theo Bos will be headed to Melbourne at the end of this month to take part in the International Track Series there. In case you are wondering why he would do that right after finishing a keirin event in Japan, let me explain.
Actually, it’s quite simple: he needs points. UCI track ranking points, something all track riders hunt for. We are used to rankings in road cycling, but the UCI track ranking has its own dimension. Due to the limited number of riders in a discipline, you have to qualify to take the start.
There are separate track rankings for individual riders in all disciplines, with three main different classes of races. In world championships, European championships and the World Cups you can gain the big points, and in races of class 1 and 2 you have fewer points available. Only the three best results of a rider in World Cups, the three best results in class 1 and the three best in class 2 races count, in addition to all championships results. The ranking is continuously updated with the accumulated points of the last 365 days.
There is also a nations ranking by discipline, calculated based on either the three best-ranked riders or the three best results in team races. For the rankings you already almost need a slide rule, but it’s the qualification for World Cups and world championships that makes things even more difficult.
In World Cups, national teams and trade teams compete against each other. To enter a World Cup, a team (national or trade team) needs a spot in the quota (45 sprinters, 36 keirin riders, as an example), which is established at the beginning of the World Cup season. The maximum number of starters per team is limited to two in the sprint and one in the keirin.
Last year the Netherlands gained two sprint spots with the points of Jeff Hoogland and Theo Bos, and one keirin spot with Matthijs Büchli. If additional trade teams exist, the overall limit for a nation is set to four sprinters and three keirin riders. Trade teams may thus increase the participation rights of a nation.
At the world championships the number of starters is reduced (30 sprinters, 24 keirin riders). In the sprint, the first 10 countries in the nations ranking get two spots each, and the last 10 spots are distributed between the best riders in the individual ranking and, of course, of nonqualified nations. In the keirin, it’s eight nations and eight individual spots. The cut is made sometime in January, directly after the last World Cup. All gained spots are assigned to the teams, and the teams select the participants later. Only world and European champions receive a personalized spot.
Today it doesn’t look very good for the Netherlands in some disciplines, but there is still time for a change by January. And there is also a small back door, as the organizer of the world championships is Apeldoorn 2018.
For the Olympic Games, there is a third and again different system. But to not confuse you too much, maybe it’s better if I explain this later.
Conclusion: track riders not only have to be fast but also have to know how to do the math, if only to secure a spot in the starting field for their team or nation.