Silhouette Road Cycling Large BakuPurpleSpeaking to insidethegames earlier this month, European Olympic Committees President Patrick Hickey expressed confidence the European Games will feature the continent's top athletes, while also showcasing the scenery of the host city, incorporating existing facilities so as to minimise costs, and helping to drive the growth of sport at all levels.

It is possible no sport will fulfil these four aims simultaneously quite like cycling.

Consisting of an individual time trial as well as mass start races, the road events will provide an opportunity to feature so of the foremost landmarks both in Baku and the wider countryside, from the shores of the Caspian Sea to the mountain ranges of the Caucasus.

This has been seen already during the Tour of Azerbaijan cycling stage-race last month, in which 150 riders from 23 different nations pedalled their way through seven regions of the country before finishing in Baku on May 11 with a tour through the fortified city and the Shirvanshah Palace.

In a letter praising the event, European Cycling Union (UEC) President David Lappartient said he hoped the same course would feature at the European Games, "so that all the participants can discover the city of Baku and contribute to the development of cycling in Azerbaijan".

No decision has yet been made on the final course next year, but the Organising Committee are currently in advanced discussions with the Azerbaijan Ministry of Transport to finalise them, and they hope to confirm the route soon.

The Tour of Azerbaijan illustrated the beauty of the inaugural European Games host city ©FacebookThe Tour of Azerbaijan illustrated the beauty of the inaugural European Games host city ©Facebook

As Lappartient alluded to, contributing to the development of cycling in Azerbaijan is a second major aim. For unlike other sports on the programme, the host nation does not have a particularly proud heritage on two wheels.

Progress has already been made in road events, and at London 2012 Elena Tchalykh became the first Azerbaijani to compete in an Olympic cycling competition with a creditable 20th place finish in the time trial. But in mountain biking they are less developed and in BMX events, first seen on the Olympic stage at Beijing 2008, they have virtually no competitors at all.

"We are using the Games to help with development in Azerbaijan," UEC general secretary Enrico Della Casa, told insidethegames. "We will provide bikes to local children and work with the Solidarity Commission to increase opportunities for youngsters to take up BMX."

As host nation Azerbaijan is entitled to places in all eight of the cycling events, but because they do not have the athletes to participate in BMX, they will be permitted an extra athlete in the two cross-country races.

Azerbaijan will also not be the only country hoping to use the Games to develop in cycling. Qualification will be decided by the International Cycling Union (UCI) Nations ranking, from a cut-off date of December 31, with each nation allocated a certain number of riders depending on their position in the rankings.

But with Universality Places also available, there will be opportunities for all 48 Federations to compete, and smaller nations including Andorra, Montenegro and Macedonia have been among those to express their enthusiasm.

In terms of the cycling powerhouses, of which Europe boasts many, it is thought the European Games will have to become more established before the very best names are attracted. And with the Tour de France due to start in Utrecht next year just six days after the Closing Ceremony in Baku on June 28, it is hard to see the likes of Great Britain's Chris Froome or Italy's Vincenzo Nibali toeing the line.

But that does not mean the line-up will not still be strong, and Italy and France are among larger nations to have already confirmed their interest to the UEC.

One extra incentive is provided by the fact that the Games will provide ranking points towards qualification for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Another boost is that road events have been brought forward one week and will now take place in the middle of the Games from June 18 until June 21 in order to avoid a clash with the National Championships taking place across the continent the following week.

And with mountain-biking taking place the first day after the Opening Ceremony, on June 13, and BMX events being held on the final weekend, cycling events will straddle all three weekends of the Games.

BMX, mountain bike and road cycling, but not track events, will feature at Baku 2015 ©AFP/Getty ImagesBMX, mountain bike and road cycling, but not track events, will feature at Baku 2015 ©AFP/Getty Images

The obvious absentee in terms of the Baku 2015 programme is track cycling, but this absence occurred only for practical reasons and action should take place in the velodrome in future editions.

"We signed an agreement with the European Olympic Committees to have all four Olympic disciplines and an identical programme to at the Olympic Games," Della Casa told insidethegames. "Yet when visiting Baku, they had a very old track and, although they are rebuilding it, it is not yet up to standard, so we are not holding track events this time.

"But in 2019 we hope to include track events as well."

So the Baku 2015 cycling competition will begin to realise the European Games concept expressed by Patrick Hickey, and this should grow and grow in future editions.

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