With two rounds completed, and two remaining, the UCI Track World Cup has reached the half-way stage of a fascinating series that could hold clues to the selection of athletes for Team GB at London 2012.
While Team GB performance director, Dave Brailsford, has publicly stated that his riders, road and track, will not match the incredible achievements of the all-conquering Beijing squad (due, if nothing else, to administrative changes that have reduced the number of track events) expectations remain high and are likely to increase in the months leading up to the Games next July.
With February’s fourth and final round of the 2011/12 UCI Track World Cup in London’s new velodrome set to double as the Olympic test event, we focused our analysis of the World Cup’s story so far on the five events that will make up the Olympic roster in 2012.
Men’s Individual Sprint
Sir Chris Hoy began his World Cup campaign in suitable style with a victory in the opening round at Astana velodrome in November, beating teammate, Matt Crampton, on his way to victory over the Russian rider, Denis Dmitriev, in the final. Twenty-year-old sprint sensation, Steffan Botticher, stood at the top of an all-German podium one month later at the World Cup’s second round in Cali, Columbia – a round not contested by Team GB’s sprinters.
Another medal in Astana for Hoy, but silver in the Men’s Keirin came as a slight disappointment after the Scots powerhouse’s flawless path to the final. It remained enough to show his rivals that the illness that ruled him out of the European championships in Apeldoorn was behind him. Victory went to the Greek rider, Christos Volikakis. Hoy’s teammate, Jason Kenny, went out at the repechage. In the World Cup’s second round in Cali, Columbia, a round uncontested by Hoy, gold went to Germany’s Maximillian Levy.
Men’s Team Sprint
A poor start in Astana saw the Team GB Men’s Sprint team of Kenny, Edgar, and Queally finish only seventh. Perhaps worryingly, the German team of Stefan Nimke, Maximilian Levy and René Enders, left by Hoy’s gold medal winning team to collect the bronze in Beijing, set a new world record of 42.914 seconds in qualifying on their way to gold at the World Cup’s second round in Cali, Columbia. Their victory will not have gone unnoticed at Team GB’s Manchester HQ.
Ed Clancy did nothing to harm his chances for selection as Team GB’s candidate for the Men’s Ominium at London 2012 at the World Cup’s opening round, finishing seventh overall in Astana after victory in the flying lap event. Team GB did not contest the Men’s Omnium at the World Cup’s second round in Cali.
Men’s Team Pursuit
Team GB’s all-conquering Men’s Team Pursuit squad has yet to show its hand, but will certainly be a force to be reckoned with at the London round of the World Cup in February. With six major talents to choose from, and Geraint Thomas expected to be among those available, the World Cup’s closing round could witness a fairly large statement of intent from the men in red, white, and blue. Russia saw off a young Australian team in the final of the World Cup’s opening round in Astana, while in the second round in Cali, New Zealand beat Australia to the top step of the podium.
Women’s Individual Sprint
Young sprinters, Becky James and Jess Varnish, finished ninth and twelfth respectively in Women’s Individual Sprint at the first round of the World Cup in Astana, the only round so far contested by Team GB’s women’s sprint squad. Queen Vic has yet to show her hand.
Women’s Team Sprint
The opening round of the World Cup in Astana witnessed a Women’s Team Sprint duo of Jess Varnish and Becky James narrowly miss out on a bronze medal after finishing a quarter of a second behind their German rivals in a round won emphatically by the Australian pair of Anna Meares and Kaarle Mcculloch. Victory in the World Cup’s second round in Cali went to Germany’s Kristina Vogel and Miriam Welte, who beat their Ukranian rivals in the final.
Ninth overall in Astana from Becky James represents the high water mark so far in the Women’s Keirin, with Team GB’s women’s sprint team rested from the World Cup’s second round in Cali. Victory in Astana went to France’s Clare Sanchez, while in Cali, Lithuania’s multiple world champion (and long-term rival to Victoria Pendleton) Simona Krupeckaite took the gold.
Dani King showed her form with a silver medal in the Women’s Omnium from the World Cup’s first round in Astana, winning the individual pursuit by over a half-a-second. Laura Trott continued Team GB’s strong showing in the following round in Cali, taking bronze after finishing third in the multi-event competition’s individual pursuit and winning the 500m TT.
Women’s Team Pursuit
Celebrations following the gold medal earned in the Women’s Team Pursuit by Laura Trott, Wendy Houvenaghel, and Sarah Storey at the World Cup’s second round in Cali were dampened by a subsequent announcement that Storey, a double Paralympic champion, would no longer be selected for the able-bodied squad. Victory in the World Cup’s opening round in Astana went to the Dutch team of Pieters, Van Dijk and Wild, who saw off their Chinese rivals in the final.
Women’s Individual Pursuit
The Individual Pursuit has been struck from the Olympic roster, but we couldn’t overlook Wendy Houvenaghel’s fine silver medal at the World Cup’s second round in Cali, where she finished behind New Zealand’s Alison Shanks in the final. With a gold medal from the same meeting in the team pursuit, she will be hard for coaches to overlook in their selections for London 2012.