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Olympic track cycling – preview

Team GB’s superb start to their Olympic cycling campaign, with three medals from four events on the road in London, looks set to continue on the track.

Focus switches today to the velodrome when action on the boards begins at 4pm with qualifying for the women’s team sprint.

Great Britain’s track cycling success was the centre piece of the nation’s performance at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, with 12 of Team GB’s cycling medals, and seven of their eight cycling golds, coming on the boards.

Victoria Pendleton and Jess Varnish, who won gold with a new world record the last time they competed at the London Olympic Velodrome, at the final round of the UCI Track World Cup in February, will start proceedings in the women’s team sprint.

The Team GB pairing will face their chief rivals, and those they vanquished to clinch gold in February, in today’s opening round: Anna Meares and Kaarle McCulloch. The Aussie pairing had their revenge over the British pairing at the UCI Track World Championships in April, but lost to Germany in the final.

Sir Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny, and Phillip Hindes will also be in action today in the men’s team sprint. They have only competed as a trio at the world championships in April, where they were disqualified after Hindes moved out of his lane after an impressive first lap in the ‘man one’ position. They are realistic contenders for gold, but will face stern competition from the German team of Rene Enders, Maximillian Levy, and Stefan Nimke, and Australia’s reigning world champions, Shane Perkins, Matthew Glaetzer, and Scott Sunderland.

Great Britain’s men’s team pursuit squad, fielding a line up in the opening time trial of  Steven Burke, Ed Clancy, Peter Kennaugh jnr, Andy Tennant, Geraint Thomas, and Steven Burke, will begin the defence of the gold medal won by Clancy, Thomas, Bradley Wiggins and Paul Manning in Beijing.

Australia, whom they defeated on home soil with a world record time to become world champions in April, will again represent the greatest challenge, and to today will field a team of Jack Bobridge, Glenn O’Shea, Dennis Rohan, and Michael Hepburn.

Clancy told RCUK in February that the competition between the two nations would be a ‘dogfight’, while Burke said a world record time would be required for overall victory. The final will be held at 6pm tomorrow (Friday August 3).

The other highlights for British fans in tomorrow’s schedule are represented by  Pendelton’s attempt to take gold in the women’s keirin, and the qualifying round for the women’s team pursuit.

Pendleton is Britain’s entrant for the women’s keirin, a discipline in which she won the world championship in 2007 (her third world title of the championships that yeaer). She was a silver medalist in 2008 and 2010, and is considered a greater prospect for the women’s individual sprint at the Games. She finished 12th at the world championships in April, with victory in the event going to arch rival, Meares.

More British world champions, in the form of Jo Rowsell, Dani King, Laura Trott, and Wendy Houvenaghel, will roll out for qualifying for the women’s team pursuit  tomorrow. The veteran Houvenaghel will be keen to deliver her best performance to justify a place in the final. The trio of Rowsell, King, and Trott who beat Australia with a world record time at both the London round of the world cup and the world championships. The final at the Games will be held this Saturday (August 4).

The men’s individual sprint gets underway on Saturday (4), with Jason Kenny Britain’s nominee after winning a close selection battle with Sir Chris Hoy. Briefly the world champion after the Frenchman Gregory Bauge was stripped of the title earlier this year, Kenny will be keen to prove he can win titles on the track after being defeated by the Frenchman in an exhilarating semi-final at the world championships in April. Bauge, Germany’s Robert Forsteman, and Shane Perkins of Australia will represent Kenny’s principal competition. The final will be held on Monday August 6.

Ed Clancy will start his second event on Saturday: the men’s Omnium. The six-event discipline is a new inclusion on the Olympic programme, and Clancy will be seeking to improve on a strong performance at the world championships in April that saw him finish just outside the medals in fourth spot. Australia’s Glenn O’Shea, like Clancy a member of his nation’s team pursuit squad, won the world title by a handsome margin and will seek to deliver a similar performance in London.

Pendleton will start her third event, the women’s individual sprint, on Saturday (4), with the opening round time trial. She regained her world title in April after a gritty display to defeat Meares in the semi-final and winning the final by defeating Simona Krupeckaitė in the final. Meares and the Lithuanian will again represent Pendleton’s strongest rivals. The final will be held on the last day of track competition, Tuesday August 7.

On Sunday August 8, another of Britain’s newly-crowned world champions, Laura Trott, a member of the women’s team pursuit squad, will roll out for the opening events of the women’s Omnium. Her victory on the final day of the world championship’s, alongside Hoy’s triumph in the men’s keirin, was one of the most exciting. She will again face competition from some of the strongest and most experienced competitors in the velodrome in the form of Sarah Hammer (USA) and Canada’s Tara Whitten, as well as runner up in Melbourne, Annette Edmondson. The final will be held on Tuesday August 7.

The climax to the track competition could be contained in Sir Chris Hoy’s appearance in the men’s keirin. The Scot will seek to defend his second gold medal from Beijing, after riding in the men’s team sprint, having been denied the chance to defend all three titles by rules allowing only one competitor from each nation in individual events. The ride he delivered in Australia to clinch the eleventh world title of his illustrious career, was truly memorable, moving from almost last to first in the final straight.

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