The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has told the UCI to do more to support top-level track paracyclists, including giving them more chances to compete, or face track cycling being dropped from the Paralympic Games.
The appeal was made as the IPC Governing Board approved at a meeting in Abu Dhabi this weekend the 22 sports that will feature at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo, including new additions badminton and taekwondo.
In October last year, cycling did not feature on the preliminary list of 16 sports included, its omission put down to an administrative oversight on the part of the UCI, which had failed to submit its application in time to be considered.
While cycling does now make the final list following what IPC president Sir Philip Craven says is “the most extensive and rigorous review process ever of all the sports,” track cycling’s Paralympic future appears in serious doubt.
Sir Philip said: “All [sports] were assessed against the same criteria and our aim all along has been to ensure that the final Tokyo 2020 Paralympic sports programme is fresh and features the best para-sports possible.”
Football 7-a-side and sailing did not make the programme for Tokyo since neither met the IPC’s requirements for worldwide reach, he explained.
He added: “Although the IPC Governing Board approved the inclusion of cycling, it did express serious reservations regarding the sustainability of the track cycling discipline.
“While a decision on the Tokyo 2020 medal events programme will not be made until 2017, the Board encourages the UCI to work towards increasing both the number of high-performance track cyclists and the number of opportunities for them to compete at an international level.”
Cycling was one of Paralympics GB’s most successful sports at London 2012, with the country taking five gold, seven silver and three bronze medals at the velodrome.
One of the stars there, Dame Sarah Storey, returns to the venue later this month as she attempts the Hour record.
Meanwhile the boost in profile the event gave the country’s paracyclists is reflected by the fact that triple silver medallist Jon-Allan Butterworth is currently appearing in the Channel 4 winter sport reality show, The Jump.
Ahead of his election as UCI president in 2013, Brian Cookson pledged to introduce more international events for para-cyclists, with riders such as Great Britain’s Jody Cundy and Ireland’s Colin Lynch among those to have voiced concerns about the lack of opportunity to compete at top level.
In his manifesto, Cookson said it was “important that we support more international events for Para-cyclists.
"Athletes thrive on high quality competition but the Para-cycling calendar is presently bare.
"We need to increase the number of races and raise standards by providing better support and working closer with event organisers," he added.
That’s a promise Cookson will have to deliver on if the discipline is to secure its place in future editions of the Paralympic Games.
After this weekend's Newport International where Great Britain's paracyclists won 18 medals, he was reported by BBC Sport as saying: "Thanks to cycling's global reach and the UCI's commitment in promoting our sport, cycling will feature again in five years' time in Japan.
"Meanwhile, we will keep on raising the profile of our discipline through our leading events, the UCI Para-cycling World Championships and UCI Para-cycling World Cup," added Cookson.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.