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By Martyn Herman
LONDON, Sept 18 (Reuters) - A mixed-team time-trial relay could be part of the Paris 2024 Olympic road cycling programme if the event proves popular at this year's world championships, the UCI said on Wednesday.
After being trialled at the European championships in Alkmaar this year, the mixed-team time trial makes its world championships debut on Sunday in Yorkshire with national teams comprising three male and three female riders.
It follows calls for women's road cycling to have a higher profile and would potentially allow an extra road event in Paris to go alongside the road races and individual time trials.
"The UCI would be interested to see how this format evolves over the next Olympic period and are open to working with the IOC to introduce a new and innovative format into the existing Road Cycling programme at the Olympic Games," a UCI spokesman told Reuters on Wednesday.
"Looking ahead, this would fit perfectly with our objective of complete gender parity at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games with the aim that male and female cyclists will enjoy equal number of quotas, events and medals."
The mixed TTT in Harrogate, Yorkshire, replaces the "trade teams" time trial, which has been in every edition since 2012, and will see three male riders tackle a hilly 14-km circuit with the female trio setting off around the same layout when the second man "tags" them as he crosses the line.
Times will be an aggregate of the male and female riders' with the clock stopping when the second woman finishes.
The Dutch team, who won the mixed TTT at the European championships, are again favourites, especially with several teams holding back their best time triallists for the individual TTs later in the championships.
Some top names will ride it, however, including Vuelta a Espana winner Primoz Roglic.
Other sports such as swimming, triathlon and athletics have introduced mixed-relay formats and organisers of this year's Road Cycling World Championships expect Sunday's race to attract huge interest from the fans.
British Cycling's mixed TTT coach Andy Pink said Sunday's event should be a fascinating tactical battle.
"It's a very lumpy course and strategy is going to be very important, especially as you can drop your third rider," he told Reuters. "I think it's great that the mixed event has been added to the programme. It's a great showcase for women's road cycling. I think the crowds will love it."
Britain's male trio of John Archibald, Dan Bigham and Harry Tanfield are tipped to put down one of the fastest times but Pink said the Dutch women could hold the key.
"Even if the Dutch are down after the men's riders have gone, their women are capable of clawing it back." (Reporting by Martyn Herman Editing by Toby Davis and Clare Fallon)