The Dutch sprinters will defend three world titles at the World Championship track cycling starting on Wednesday, but it will also be a lot about the Olympic Games in Berlin. By again performing well the track riders can win an extra ticket for Tokyo at the expense of the road team.
It was a special picture four years ago at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games: the German track rider Maximilian Levy, with his enormous sprinter thighs, stood among all the small climbers at the start of the road race.
There is a good chance that the Netherlands will do the same trick in Tokyo next summer with the 84-kilo track cyclist Jan-Willem van Schip, a stage candidate at the omnium and the head-rate, but not really suitable for the climbers' route of the road race.
In order not to let the Olympic village grow into a medium-sized city, there is a limit to the number of athletes who can participate in the Games. For cycling, the quotas used by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) are extra restrictive, also because the sport has four Olympic disciplines (road, track, BMX and mountain bike).
"His often good boy in class"
According to the rules, a country may only delegate three men to the team sprint, but it is permitted to move between cycling disciplines with athletes.
"If we make Van Schip our fifth man for the road team, then he deserves his bed in the Olympic village," explains KNWU general director Thorwald Veneberg. "The idea then is that he can be employed by the team in the first 100 kilometers of road driving."
"It may not exude professionalism for sport. But in Tokyo we are all about winning medals. As the Netherlands, we are often the nicest boy in the class, but not for a while."
Jan-Willem van Schip is the reigning world champion on the points race. (Photo: Pro Shots)
KNWU's decision comes after the track cycling World Cup
That this issue lies on the offices of the cycling association is a luxury problem: the Netherlands has too many good riders, in all disciplines. Veneberg must decide together with the central management how all this talent can best be used to maximize the chance of Olympic success.
"We are going to make a decision after the track cycling World Cup," said Veneberg, who makes no secret that the option to send an additional track cyclist is currently preferred. The Dutch men have been dominant in the team sprint for more than two years and the track team also has the reigning world champion in the sprint (Harrie Lavreysen) and keirin (Matthijs Büchli).
"If the track sprinters perform this week as they have done in recent years, then they show that the chance of Dutch medals is increased if we send an extra track cyclist. And that would mean that we leave a road cyclist at home."
The team sprinters extended their European title in Apeldoorn last October. (Photo: Pro Shots)
National coach road racers is not enthusiastic
It is a solution that national coach Koos Moerenhout of the road cyclists is not enthusiastic about. "Koos should not be happy either, because he may be missing a topper", says Veneberg. "There was also some opposition from riders, but this is a choice that we as management and board have put on the table after hearing all the arguments of athletes and coaches."
The KNWU director does not give the track sprinters a specific performance goal to earn an extra Olympic place at the World Cup. "It is about maintaining form. They have to show that they are still world-class and that it is justified to make this decision, also with respect to road cyclists."
The World Championship track cycling starts on Wednesday with the qualifications (6.30 pm) and the finals (9:25 pm) of the team sprint for men and women. In 2018 and 2019, the Netherlands won the world title for men in this Olympic event.
Dutch selection World Championship track cycling
- Men's endurance components: Roy Eefting, Yoeri Havik, Jan-Willem van Schip
- Women's endurance components: Amy Pieters, Kirsten Wild
- Men sprint: Roy van den Berg, Harrie Lavreysen, Matthijs Büchli, Jeffrey Hoogland, Theo Bos, Sam Ligtlee,
- Women's sprint: Shanne Braspennincx, Laurine van Riessen, Kyra Lamberink, Steffie van der Peet