Brits Playing Coy As Aussies Target More Track Gold

Written by: Justin Davis

PARIS, March 22, 2011 (AFP) – Britain, France, Australia will be among the
nations expected to give an early glimpse of their Olympic potential for
London 2012 at the track cycling world championships this week.

World beaters Britain, however, continue to keep fans guessing as the
countdown to the London Games gathers momentum.

Britain were crowned kings of the Olympic velodrome in Beijing but since
their total dominance in 2008 their competitors has been working hard to
redress the balance.

Australia arrive at the March 23-27 event in Apeldoorn, Holland with no
less than nine defending champions in a squad of 17, having topped the medals
table at last year’s worlds in Copenhagen.

France, whose strength traditionally lies in the men’s sprint and keirin
events, boast the formidable trio of Gregory Bauge, Kevin Sireau and Mickael
Bourgain.

Veteran Brit Chris Hoy, who won a record three golds in Beijing, won only
one title in Denmark, from the keirin, last year as Germany won the team
sprint and Bauge defended his sprint title.

Despite celebrating his 35th birthday this week, Hoy maintains his sights
are set firmly on London but hinted it may be best to guage his true potential
a year on from now.

“I expect to go well next week, for sure, but I expect to go better at next
year’s World Championships in Melbourne, which is the most important meeting
in terms of Olympic selection, and better still in London,” said Hoy.

“In two years, people won’t remember how I fared in Apeldoorn but they’ll
know all about London.”

Along with Hoy’s keirin gold in Denmark, Victoria Pendleton and Ed Clancy
helped save British blushes last year, the pair dominating their respective
events in the sprint and Omnium.

Pendleton is bidding for a fifth world sprint title, but will face a strong
challenge from Australian Anna Meares.

Meares, Australia’s only track medal winner in Beijing with a sprint silver
behind Pendleton, recently handed a straight heats defeat to the Englishwoman
in the semi-finals of the Manchester World Cup round.

She then went on to win a third heat decider over China’s Shuang Guo in the
gold medal round.

Meares will also team up with Kaarle McCulloch to bid for a hat-trick of
golds in the team sprint having won the event in both 2009 and 2010.

Australia are also the reigning world champions in the men’s and women’s
teams pursuit, although all eyes could be on Jack Bobridge in the individual
event.

Bobridge recently broke Chris Boardman’s 4000-metre pursuit world record,
which the Briton set in 1996 in a position which is now banned, in a time of
4min 10.534sec.

Although the Aussies are taking these championships seriously, with 16
months and another world championships to go, the British appear to see things
differently.

“These world championships are a further stepping stone towards the Olympic
Games in London, and whilst the team is building momentum there’s still plenty
left in the tank,” said British Cycling Performance Director Dave Brailsford.

“The pressure is really on the Australians and the French to deliver, and
it’s a nice feeling for us to be going out there as the challengers.”

While Britain can enjoy that luxury, the rest of the world will be going
out to display their Olympic potential — and grab as many qualification
points as possible for the ensuing competitions which lead up to the London
Games.

Germany, China, New Zealand, Lithuania, Spain and Argentina all have a
chance at claiming medals.

One notable absentee will be Malaysian keirin sensation Azizulhasni Awang,
who was forced out of this week’s competition when his leg was pierced by a
jagged splinter from one of the Manchester boards last month.

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