It’s youth and experience as far as Great Britain’s squad for this week’s UCI Track World Championships is concerned, with six debutants and six Olympic gold medallists among the 16 riders.
Jason Kenny, Phil Hindes, Ed Clancy, Steve Burke, Dani King and Laura Trott spearhead the line-up, while Kian Emadi, Vicky Williamson, Jon Dibben, Owain Doull, Simon Yates and Elinor Barker are all set to make their World Championship debut.
The 2013 worlds will start in Minsk, Belarus, on Wednesday (February 20) and run until Sunday (February 24), with nineteens titles up for grabs. For Great Britain it represents the first step on the road to Rio de Janeiro.
It’s a well-trodden path for Dave Brailsford but the British Cycling supremo must now contemplate life with two stalwarts from recent Olympic cycles: Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton.
“There is a changing of the guard if you like,” said Brailsford. “Young, aspiring riders have their opportunity to become the leaders of the team.”
Jason Kenny is now the veteran of the sprint team at just 24 years old – but with three Olympic gold medals, and a silver, to his name from Beijing 2008 and London 2012.
The Bolton-born sprinter has enjoyed limited success at the World Championships, by his heady standards at least, with just one gold among six medals won since 2009, and that after he was belatedly promoted from silver in 2011 after Frenchman Gregory Bauge was given a backdated ban for missing a doping test.
“The World Championships are really important to me,” said Kenny, who will ride the team sprint, individual sprint and keirin. “I really want to win them.
“I want to win as much as possible between now and Rio, and the most important race to me is at the worlds. The Olympics is the biggest event we can do, but the World Championships is a fairly close second. Everyone wants to win it and it’s going to be as competitive as ever.”
Kenny won team sprint gold in London with Hoy and Philip Hindes, who also takes his place in the Great Britain squad in Belarus along with Kian Emadi, who will ride the kilo as well as filling Hoy’s boots as ‘man three’ in the team sprint, and Matt Crampton, who will compete in the keirin.
“I’ve been making major strides since last summer,” said 20-year-old Emadi. “The competition has driven me on. Now I want to repay the coaches’ faith in me by delivering a really good ride at the top level.”
Jess Varnish, who paired up with Pendleton for the team sprint in London only for the duo to be disqualified, is absent from the women’s sprint squad after picking up a back injury, so Becky James and 19-year-old newcomer Vicky Williamson will join forces in Belarus. Both will compete in the individual sprint, team sprint, keirin and 500m time trial.
“It’s probably the best year I could have had for training,” said James, who is enjoying an injury-free run of form after numerous setbacks in recent seasons.
“It’s the most consistent block of training I have ever had in my career and I’m getting the benefits of that now and I can see that coming through. In the past I have had illnesses and injuries. This year everything has gone to plan and hopefully it will stay that way until the worlds now – I’m sure it will.”
Hoy and Pendleton aren’t the only star names missing in Minsk, with Geraint Thomas and Peter Kennaugh both back on the road with Team Sky having formed half of Great Britain’s team pursuit winning quartet in London.
Ed Clancy and Steven Burke are the two survivors, along with Andy Tennant, the fifth and unused squad member in London. Sam Harrison will complete the team pursuit line-up in London, with Jon Dibben, who will also compete in the omnium, as spare rider. Owain Doull and Simon Yates will join forces in the madison, with Doull also competing in the 15km scratch race and Yates in the 40km points race.
Laura Trott will defend both the team pursuit and omnium titles won at the last World Championships in Melbourne as part of Great Britain’s women’s endurance squad.
The 20-year-old, who also won double Olympic gold in London, will once again line-up with Dani King in the team pursuit, with Elinor Barker replacing Jo Rowsell, who is focussing on her road career with the new Wiggle-Honda women’s team. King will also ride the 10km scratch race and 25km points race.
Barker seamlessly slotted into the three-rider line-up at the Glasgow World Cup, going on to win gold with King and Trott, who was quick to praise her 18-year-old team-mate.
“She’s so good and so consistent,” said Trott. “You only have to tell her once and the next effort she’s moved on and she’s improved and she’s just getting better and better.”
It’s a level of consistency that Brailsford hopes will be mirrored across the British squad but the road to Rio is long and winding. Great Britain have a habit of getting it right when it matters – at an Olympic Games – and the first World Championships in an Olympic cycle represents a chance to experiment and blood fresh-faced youngsters. It’s about performance and potential – but there are some big boots to fill in the next four years.
Men ‘s sprint
Matt Crampton (keirin)
Kian Emadi (team sprint, kilo)
Jason Kenny (team sprint, individual sprint, keirin)
Phil Hindes (team sprint)
Becky James (team sprint, individual sprint, 500m time trial)
Vicky Williamson (team sprint, individual sprint, 500m time trial)
Steven Burke (team pursuit)
Ed Clancy (team pursuit)
Jon Dibben (team pursuit, omnium)
Owain Doull (madison, 15km scratch race)
Sam Harrison (team pursuit)
Andy Tennant (team pursuit)
Simon Yates (madison, 40km points race)
Elinor Barker (team pursuit)
Dani King (team pursuit, 10km scratch race, 25km points race)
Laura Trott (team pursuit, omnium)
Schedule (finals only)
Wednesday February 20
Men’s kilometre time trial, women’s individual pursuit, women’s team sprint, men’s team pursuit
Thursday February 21
Women’s 500m time trial, men’s individual pursuit, women’s team pursuit, men’s 15km scratch race, men’s team sprint
Friday February 22
Women’s 10km scratch race, men’s 40km points race, men’s keirin
Saturday February 23
Women’s 25km points race, men’s omnium, women’s individual sprint
Sunday February 24
Women’s omnium, men’s individual sprint, men’s 50km madison, women’s keirin