The 2012 UCI Track World Championships start in Melbourne on Wednesday (4).
The host nation could provide the sternest opposition for Great Britain in several key events when the nations meet in the Hisense Arena for five days of racing that will offer crucial qualification points for the London Games.
Team GB will hope to build on the sensational performances posted at the closing round of the UCI Track World Cup at the London Velodrome in February, a meeting that doubled as the Olympic test event.
Team captain, Sir Chris Hoy, led by example in London, winning gold in the men’s sprint and men’s kierin, and placing third in the men’s team sprint with Jason Kenny and Ross Edgar.
Such was Hoy’s dominance in London that he will simply have to retain his form to add to his tally of 10 world championships. He will contest the sprint, team sprint, and keirin in Melbourne.
Germany’s Maximilian Levi and teammate Rene Enders, both vanquished by Hoy in London, could, with France’s Gregory Bauge, provide the Scot with the greatest competition outside of his own highly-rated teammates.
Jason Kenny, the reigning world sprint champion, will also contest three sprint events, while the illustrious pairing will be joined 19-year-old Phillip Hindes, the surprise inclusion in Dave Brailsford’s world championship squad, for the team sprint.
“It’s a big step for me to go to the World Championships and it’s a good opportunity to go there and to show what I can do. I’m really happy it has gone so well. It proves I did everything right,” said Hindes.
Matt Crampton, who raced in the colours of Sky Track Cycling in London, has been recalled to the Great Britain sprint squad and will contest the sprint, while 24-year-old Steven Burke, who won bronze in the individual pursuit at the Beijing Games, and is the reigning British champion in the event, will compete in the kilo.
Vicky Pendleton and Jess Varnish took gold in London by setting a new world record in the women’s team sprint, seeing off the challenge of Australia in the most emphatic style.
But Pendleton struggled to produce her best form in the individual sprint and keirin events, losing out 2-1 to her greatest rival, and reigning sprint world champion, Anna Meares, in the sprint semi-final.
The mind games for their latest confrontation have already begun, with Pendleton telling a press conference last Tuesday (28) that Meares “likes to push the rules”. Two days later, Meares, described the world championships as a “full dress rehearsal – physical, mental, and emotional” for this summer’s Olympics.
Both women will contest the sprint, team sprint and keirin, but Meares will also ride in the 500m time trial, where she will face a field containing Varnish, who will also ride the individual sprint.
At any other meeting than London, Pendleton and Varnish’s emphatic display would have been the stand out performance, but their achievement at the Olympic Velodrome was matched within hours by Great Britain’s women’s team pursuit squad. The world record set by Joanna Rowsell, Dani King and Laura Trott of 3.18.48 in the final of the women’s team pursuit re-established Great Britain as world record holders just hours after their previous record had been broken by Australia.
The trio will defend Great Britain’s world title in the event in Melbourne, won last year by a line-up of King, Trott and Wendy Houveneghal, who, with Rowsell, will contest the women’s individual pursuit in Melbourne. Rowsell took gold in the event at the London World Cup.
The greatest gains are to be made by the men’s team pursuit squad, and if their performances Down Under in preparation for the world’s are an accurate indication of their form, they are on target to do so. The same Team GB line-up of Ed Clancy, Pete Kennaugh, Andy Tennant, and Geraint Thomas, have been selected for the world championships. Both Clancy and Thomas were part of Great Britain’s world record beating, gold medal winning squad in Beijing.
Australia were dominant in London, setting a time just 1.3 seconds off the world record set by Great Britain in their gold medal winning ride in Beijing. The line-up of Jack Bobridge, Luke Durbridge, Rohan Dennis, and Michael Hepburn, won last year’s world championship final by nearly five seconds.
Speaking recently, Bobridge, said his team were not solely focussed on beating Great Britain, and hinted that times would be even faster in Melbourne. “We are around the same mark as we were before London. I think it is definitely going to take a quicker time here to win than in London: that was a World Cup, this is a world title. We are going to have to step up to win and we know that and we are willing and able to do it.”
Thomas is also set to contest the individual pursuit, and partner Ben Swift in the madison, while Swift will also take on the scratch race and points race. Clancy will represent Team GB in the omnium.
Team sprint: Philip Hindes, Jason Kenny, Sir Chris Hoy
Sprint: Sir Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny, Matt Crampton, Philip Hindes
Keirin: Matt Crampton, Jason Kenny, Chris Hoy
Kilo: Steven Burke
Team sprint: Victoria Pendleton and Jess Varnish
Keirin: Victoria Pendleton
Sprint: Victoria Pendleton, Jess Varnish
500m TT: Jess Varnish
Team pursuit: Ed Clancy, Pete Kennaugh, Andy Tennant, Geraint Thomas
Scratch race: Ben Swift
Points race: Ben Swift
Omnium: Ed Clancy
Madison: Geraint Thomas and Ben Swift
Individual pursuit: Geraint Thomas
Team pursuit: Joanna Rowsell, Laura Trott, Dani King
Omnium: Laura Trott
Scratch race: Dani King
Individual pursuit: Wendy Houvenaghel, Joanna Rowsell