Great Britain will send out its strongest team for the final round of the UCI Track World Cup, which starts at London’s new velodrome today.
The squad selected by British Cycling’s performance director, Dave Brailsford, for a meeting that will double as the Olympic test event includes many of the medal winning athletes from the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Olympic silver medalist and three-time world champion, Wendy Houvenaghel, told RoadCyclingUK that she and her colleagues on Great Britain’s Women’s Team Pursuit squad, the reigning World Champions, were targeting victory at the London Games this summer.
“Every member of our team is totally focused on winning the team pursuit Olympic gold. We’re doing everything we can to make that outcome as realistic as possible. In any competition, you can’t really control what the other competitors are capable of, but I know we won’t be satisfied with anything less than the gold medal in London this August,” she said.
With nations including New Zealand, Australia, the USA, Canada, Belarus, China and Lithuania turning in strong performances in the women’s team pursuit at recent events, Houvenaghel said she and her team were taking nothing for granted.
“In the back of my mind I’m very much focused on our team winning gold in the women’s team pursuit at the Olympic Games, but to get there we have to deliver strong performances at the world cup in London and at the world championships in Melbourne, after which we’ve got a full summer of work to do. Our training schedule is all planned out, and I like getting through it one day at a time,” she said.
Houvenaghel won the Olympic silver medal in the individual pursuit at the Beijing Games four years ago. The event will be replaced at the London Games by the team pursuit to create parity in the number of events for male and female riders.
“Initially, when I heard the news that the individual pursuit was to be scrapped from the Olympic programme, I was very disappointed because I had lost an opportunity to go for the IP gold medal in London. However, I was really pleased to hear that my other event, the women’s team pursuit was included on the 2012 Olympic Games programme. I saw it as an opportunity to change my focus from the Individual event to that of the team event. It has been a very enjoyable and successful transition for me,” she said.
Houvenaghel found instant success on the bike after taking up cycling in 2002 to recover from her participation in the London Marathon.
Three times a winner of the UCI Track World Cup and multiple national champion on the road and track, the Beijing Games has been the biggest event of her career to date, but she told RoadCyclingUK she had not been unsettled by the magnitude of the event.
“I adopted a very methodical approach and looked at it as another competition. I didn’t attach any sentiment to it as I work best that way. I see better results if I focus entirely on what I’m doing rather than becoming distracted by things around me. The only time I allowed myself to relax properly was after I left the velodrome following the medal presentation and the drug control. That was the first time I allowed myself to look around and take in what was actually going on. Right up until the competition was over, I shut everything else out. I didn’t want to be distracted from my task.” she said.
Life has changed little since her medal success in Beijing, she added, due to training and racing commitments winter and summer since then. She praised the national federation for “creating an environment where there is a constant through put of younger talented athletes that aspire to emulate the achievements of the established and successful senior athletes.”
“British Cycling has developed as a leading world class Federation over many years, the hard work noticeably came to fruition with our success at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008. Since then we have had alot more interest from sponsors, and received more funding, which has helped lead to major successes on the Road as well as on the Track for both the male and female athletes. We have had, and currently have, some of the best athletes in the world. Our management structure is very well supported by very capable people. We have great support staff in coaches, doctors, physios, nutritionists, psychologists, sports analysts, logistics. The whole unit works well and as a result, we’re seeing success over and over again,” she said.
The qualifying rounds for the men’s and women’s team pursuit begin at 6pm today.