Alex Whitcomb previews the first round of the Revolution Track Series
This Saturday sees the Revolution track series make a welcome return to the Manchester velodrome for the first round of the elite events. This will be one of three rounds to be held in Manchester this season, with London and Glasgow holding hosting meetings as well. Among the athletes competing will be Sir Bradley Wiggins, who’ll be hoping that his own squad will be able to capitalise on the momentum of his recent win at the European championships. The quality of the field this year justifies its billing as one of the biggest track series in the world.
For Bradley Wiggins, this is all part of the long road to Rio 2016. Since completing the Tour/Olympic double in 2012, he has made it very clear that his major goal is now to win on the track at the Olympics again. His form in the last two years has been impressive and it does bode well for the quadruple gold medallist. Since 2013 he has won the Tour of Britain, Tour of California, World Time Trial Championships, European Track Championships, and has absolutely smashed the UCI World Hour Record.
While GB’s men have failed to win a single World Track title in the last two years, it is the case that Britain tend to peak at around the time of the Olympics. This means that events like Revolution are used as prime preparation for major championships and are a good indicator of how the British team are progressing towards the next year’s games. Wiggins will be racing with his own Team WIGGINS development squad, and will be alongside potential teammates for his event—the team pursuit—in Rio.
Like cycling in the UK, Revolution has grown exponentially in recent years. Starting in 2003, the series has gone beyond being simply a niche event. Its place in the year makes it a great winter event for road cyclists who primarily race in the summer months, and this has helped it attract the best athletes. Mark Cavendish debuted his world champion’s jersey at the event in 2011, and top British riders like Geraint Thomas and Laura Trott make regular appearances. Also, for the first time this year the event will be televised live on British Eurosport, with previous series only being shown as a highlights package.
The Elite series is the men’s professional competition at Revolution. Each team nominates two riders to compete in 5 different types of race every round for five rounds, and the team with the most points at the end is crowned champion. The Scratch race is the simplest race and is won by the first to cross the finish line. The elimination race one rider is eliminated every two laps and the winner is the last rider remaining. The points race involves a sprint for points every 10 laps and is won by the rider with most points at the end. The 1km time trial is an individual race against the clock over four laps.
By far the most unique race is the Madison Time Trial, with pairs taking part with one rider racing at the bottom of the track and one resting at the top. When the resting rider takes over they grab the hand of the racer and the racer uses his momentum to sling them forward. This is the most technically difficult of the races and is an exciting watch, especially for the uninitiated.
The HOY Future Stars series is also a major attraction, where British cycling’s best 15 and 16 year old boys and girls battle it out over 5 rounds. The impressive list of past winners includes two Olympic champions, three world champions and two European Champions.
Home support surely also will be firmly behind Team Sky, who have been based in the city since launching in 2010. European Champion Elia Viviani will be the Sky’s star rider in Manchester and is on an impressive run of form on the road and track with 12 wins this year. Australia’s Orica-Greenedge will be the international interest this year, and have one of the strongest fan followings on the World Tour. Their lighthearted YouTube channel is one of the most watched in cycling and the team give out more freebies to fans on the roadside than any other. They will be bringing Brit Adam Blythe and Aussie Glenn O’Shea to Round 1 of the Elite Series. Other teams competing include Belgian outfit Etixx-Quickstep—who have just parted company with Mark Cavendish—and stalwarts of the domestic pro scene JLT Condor.
With this being the last Revolution before the Olympics, it will be the last major event for riders to impress the national squad coaches to make it into the world championships team. This will make it a good opportunity for fans to see the stars before the business of bettering the seven gold medal-haul of 2012 really gets serious.