By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - Mixed-gender cycling events could form part of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics if experiments prove successful, Brian Cookson, president of the sport's governing body, said on Tuesday.
With IOC president Thomas Bach pushing sports federations to improve gender equality, Cookson said trials would begin behind closed doors in Switzerland on Friday.
Men and women could compete against each other in sports such as Alpine skiing and bobsleigh as soon as the Pyeongchang Winter Games in 2018.
Cookson said that safeguarding the amount of medal events in track and road cycling was his priority, but was open to Bach's proposals.
"When the president of the IOC raises something you all take it seriously of course," Cookson told reporters at a sports business breakfast forum.
"We have no history of (mixed-gender events) in our sport so we would have to look at how we could make those things work.
"We have to be open-minded so what we are going to do is have some test events at our velodrome where the UCI is based on Friday, behind closed doors."
Asked to provide more details, Cookson said several national federations had been invited to send young riders to the trial, with the madison and team sprint disciplines being looked at as well as a possible road team time trial.
"It will have to be very carefully managed," he said. "Coaches and sports scientists tell me men are between 10 to 15 percent faster than women in any given cycling event so we would have to find ways to moderate that difference if they are going to be competing at the same time.
"(If it is successful) we would be prepared to put it on the table for Tokyo. If it's a disaster and doesn't work we can report back to the IOC and say we tried it but it's impractical, let's see."
Cookson's immediate Olympic concern is the state of the velodrome being built for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
"It's more advanced than I had feared but there is a lot of work still to do," he said. "A lot of concrete to pour.
"(Rio organizers) say the velodrome will be complete in November with a test event in March. When I was there I reminded them that there is no time to lose.
"It's a tight schedule and I have my concerns about it but I'm confident they will deliver."
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Alan Baldwin)