Teams cut to one entry per race

GENEVA -- Nations will be restricted to one athlete per race in track cycling events at the 2012 London Olympics under new rules enacted by the International Cycling Union.

The new format is a blow to host Britain, which placed two riders on the podium in four different medal races at the 2008 Beijing Games.

Cycling's governing body made the changes to clear entry space for more teams, after 36 countries took part in the 10 track events at Beijing.

"It will assist us developing the sport around the world," UCI president Pat McQuaid told The Associated Press by telephone on Thursday. "It's something we have to do. We are limited in the number of riders and the number of events we have, so we have no option but to put this limit on participation in order to meet the demands."

In Beijing, Britain and the Netherlands each had two entries in four out of the five track events where teams could double up. The British, led by triple gold medalist Chris Hoy, finished 1-2 in the men's individual sprint, men's keirin and women's individual pursuit -- going 7-for-10 in track golds overall.

"There is no reason why they can't have equally as much success in London," McQuaid said.

Greece, Lithuania and Malaysia doubled up in either men's keirin or women's individual pursuit. The United States and Italy did not qualify two riders for any event.

The UCI announced the new qualification rule Wednesday after its proposals were accepted by the International Olympic Committee.

It follows another major change to the London track cycling program announced in December as the UCI strives to meet IOC requests for gender parity and greater access for new teams. The UCI also wants shorter races.

Five races -- the individual pursuit and points races for men and women, plus the men's madison -- were dropped after the Beijing Games, which had a 7-3 ratio of men's to women's events.

The new Olympic program for 2012 includes men's and women's individual sprint, team sprint, keirin, team pursuit and the five-race omnium event.

Riders and teams will qualify for London through world championships, continental championships and World Cup races over the next two seasons.

Other places will be offered by invitation from a commission made up of UCI and Olympic officials.

McQuaid, who was elected as an IOC member in February, said he hoped cycling could add to its 18 Olympic gold medals across all disciplines.

"It would be my ambition now to try to find more events to build on what we have got," he said.