Rio 2016 Olympic Games: track cycling preview and predictions

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Rio 2016 Olympic Games: RCUK’s track cycling medal predictions

How will Britain get on in the Rio velodrome? We've gazed into the crystal ball to find out...

Great Britain won seven of the ten track cycling gold medals on offer at the London 2012 Olympic Games, with another silver and bronze to boot – but how close can they get to that incredible haul in Rio?

The track cycling action starts on Thursday night (August 11) in the brand new Velodromo Municipal do Rio, with the men’s and women’s team pursuit qualifying getting underway, and the men’s team sprint offering the first track cycling medals of the 2016 Games.

Can Laura Trott become the first British woman to win three Olympic gold medals? (Pic: Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com)

Sir Bradley Wiggins, Jason Kenny, Ed Clancy and Laura Trott will then all be looking to add to their Olympic medal hauls through the days to come.

– Who are Great Britain’s best ever track cyclists? –

Wiggins stands to become Britain’s first Olympian to win eight medals, Clancy bids to become the first cyclist ever to win three back-to-back team pursuit gold medals and Trott is hoping to be the first British woman to win three Olympic golds.

– Cycling schedule at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games –

We’ve taken a closer look at their chances and gazed into the crystal ball to find out how the British track squad will fare in Rio.

Men’s team pursuit

Who are they? Sir Bradley Wiggins, Ed Clancy, Steven Burke, Owain Doull, (reserve – Mark Cavendish)

London 2012 result: Clancy and Burke joined Geraint Thomas and Peter Kennaugh to win the gold medal in world record time.

The men’s team pursuit quartet have reportedly smashed the world record in training (pic: Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com)

 

How are they shaping up? Silver medalists at their most recent event, the London 2016 UCI Track Cycling World Championships, the Brits have reportedly taken it up several notches in training since then. If the stories emanating from British Cycling are to be believed, that four-year-old world record is in danger.

Main rivals: Australia took silver behind the Brits in London four years ago, and claimed gold at this year’s World Championships at the Brits’ expense – having earlier beaten England to gold at the Commonwealth Games. New Zealand and Denmark have also claimed World Championship medals in the interim.

RCUK prediction: Speaking about the men’s coxless four rowing team, Sir Steve Redgrave said success breeds success and the same could be said of the men’s team pursuit quartet. Winners in Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012, this is a team that knows how to step it up in an Olympic year. GOLD

Did you know? Sir Bradley Wiggins will become the first Brit to ever win eight Olympic medals should the team pursuit squad finish in the top three in Rio. Ed Clancy could become the first cyclist to ever win three back-to-back Olympic team pursuit gold medals.

Women’s team pursuit

Who are they? Four from Laura Trott, Jo Rowsell Shand, Elinor Barker, Katie Archibald, Ciara Horne

London 2012 result: Trott, Rowsell and Dani King won gold over 3km, bettering their world record time in all three rounds. At the time, the women’s team pursuit was made up of three riders, but it now matches the men’s event with four.

Great Britain’s women’s team pursuit squad took bronze at the World Championships – their worst result since the discipline was introduced at the worlds in 2008 (Pic: Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com)

 

How are they shaping up? With the women’s team pursuit changed to four riders over 4km after London 2012, the Brit took to the new format with ease, but things have stalled since. A disastrous qualifying round at the World Championships in London this year meant they failed to reach the gold medal final for the first time since the women’s team pursuit was added to the worlds programme in 2008.

Main rivals: Australia are the world record holders, having set the benchmark on their way to gold at the 2015 World Championships. Like the Brits, however, a poor qualification round in London earlier this year cost them, with USA and Canada taking the gold and silver medals respectively.

RCUK prediction: A British gold medal in the team pursuit looked an absolute certainty until Australia bettered them in St.Quentin in 2015 and the wheels fell off at the 2016 worlds. The Brits bounced back from qualifiying to win bronze, however, and the standards have been set so high that anything less than gold in Rio would be a disappointment. Lessons will have been learned from the worlds. GOLD

Did you know? Great Britain have won a women’s team pursuit medal at every UCI Track Cycling World Championships since the discipline was introduced in 2008.

Men’s omnium

Who are they? Mark Cavendish

London 2012 result: Ed Clancy rode the men’s omnium at London 2012, winning bronze.

Mark Cavendish will bid to win his first ever Olympic medal in the omnium (Pic: Michael Poole)

 

How are they shaping up? Cavendish has made a late switch back to the track in his bid to win his first ever Olympic medal. He finished sixth in the omnium at the World Championships but did win Madison gold. He goes into the Olympics on the back of four Tour de France stage wins and a day in the yellow jersey – the latter was his first big target for the year, with the Olympics and road worlds to follow.

Main rivals: Former Etixx-QuickStep team-mate Fernando Gaviria won gold for the second time at this year’s World Championships, finishing level on points with Germany’s Roger Kluge and Australia’s Glenn O’Shea. Team Sky rider Elia Viviani is another man to watch – the Italian was outsprinted by Cav on the final omnium lap in London, which meant Viviani finished one point off the podium.

Prediction: Given his track form since he first announced his bid to ride the omnium at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Cavendish should only be considered an outsider for a medal. But he proved at the Tour de France just how good a rider he still is, and what he can achieve when he puts his mind to something. He’ll win a medal, because he said he’ll win a medal. BRONZE

Did you know? Mark Cavendish was the only British track cyclist not to win an Olympic medal in Beijing. Despite no shortage of success through a glittering career, it is still the one glaring omission from his palmares.

Women’s omnium

Who are they? Laura Trott

London 2012 result: Then just 20 years old, Trott won gold in London – her second of the Games after the team pursuit – and propelled herself into the national limelight.

Laura Trott won omnium gold at the World Championships in London (Pic: Charlie Forgham-Bailey/SWPix.com)

 

How are they shaping up? Britain’s queen of the track has made big strides forward when it comes to her bunch racing prowess and returned to the scene of her Olympic success earlier this year to win World Championship gold.

Main rivals: Trott’s chief rivals in London – American Sarah Hammer and Australia’s Annette Edmondson – remain her chief rivals in Rio. France’s 24-year-old rising star Laurie Berthon has also emerged as a contender this year, following up some strong World Cup showings with a silver medal at the worlds.

Prediction: Laura Trott’s gold medal win at the London 2016 UCI Track Cycling World Championships has only heightened optimism around her chances in Rio. GOLD

Men’s team sprint

Who are they? Jason Kenny, Philip Hindes, Callum Skinner (reserve – Ryan Owens)

London 2012 result: Kenny, Hindes and Sir Chris Hoy won gold, twice bettering the world record.

The men’s team sprint team squad has struggled to replace Sir Chris Hoy (Pic: Luke Webber/Revolution Series

 

How are they shaping up? How do you fill a Sir Chris Hoy-sized hole in your sprinting arsenal? It’s a question the British selectors have struggled to answer since London 2012. Hindes, Kenny and Skinner were sixth fastest qualifiers at this year’s World Championships, denying them a shot at a medal.

Main rivals: World champions New Zealand are favourites for gold, with Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster and Eddie Dawkins their gold medal winning trio in London. Germany are perennial contenders, while France and the Netherlands have both been in the medals since 2012.

Prediction: While Britain have won gold at the last two Olympic Games – without consistent success at the worlds in the build-up to either – their form without Hoy does not suggest that run will continue. QUARTER FINALS

Women’s team sprint

Who are they? N/A – Great Britain failed to qualify a team for the Rio Olympic Games

Katy Marchant and Jessica Varnish will not be competing in the team sprint at Rio after being unable to qualify (Pic: Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com)

London 2012 result: Jess Varnish and Victoria Pendleton broke the world record in qualifying – before China broke it just minutes later – but were disqualified in the first round after an early exchange. The time would have been quick enough to qualify for the gold medal final, but it proved to be the only one of the ten disciplines Britain didn’t medal in.

Gold medal contenders: Germany’s 2012 gold medal winners, Kristina Vogel and Miriam Welte, are always contenders in the team sprint, while Russia beat world record holders China to gold at this year’s World Championships.

Men’s sprint

Who are they? Jason Kenny, Callum Skinner

London 2012 result: Kenny won gold in London to add to the team sprint triumph – the third Olympic title of his career.

Jason Kenny won gold at the World Championships to prove his resurgence in form in the men’s sprint (pic: Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com)

 

How are they shaping up? After a few lean years for the British sprinting team in the wake of Sir Chris Hoy’s retirement, Kenny has returned to the fore – finding form in perfect time for the build-up to the Rio by winning World Championship gold in London. Skinner qualified fifth fastest in London, but eventually finished eighth after a quarter-final defeat to Denis Dmitriev.

Main rivals: Kenny beat Australia’s Matthew Glaetzer to gold in London, while Skinner’s conqueror Denis Dmitriev ultimately went on to win bronze. Dmitriev has medalled at the last four World Championships, while French duo Gregory Bauge and Francois Pervis won gold in 2015 and 2014 respectively.

Prediction: Kenny looks to have found form at the perfect time as he bids to add to his three Olympic medals. Gold in London has raised hopes, but there are plenty of riders who could usurp him in Rio. Skinner’s form has been good too, but it’s Kenny who carries Britain’s medal hopes. SILVER

Women’s sprint

Who are they? Katy Marchant, Becky James

London 2012 result: Neither were involved at London 2012, where it was Victoria Pendleton who won silver – beaten by Australian legend Anna Meares in the final.

Becky James has returned from injury to lead Britain’s hopes for a women’s sprint medal (Pic: Alex Broadway/SWPix.com)

 

How are they shaping up? It hasn’t been a great few years for Britain’s female sprinters. A long-standing knee injury and a cancer scare meant 2013 world champion Becky James only returned to action last year, while Katy Marchant has been selected at the expense of team sprint team-mate Jess Varnish, whose omission proved controversial. Vicky Williamson was another rider in contention until a bad crash at a Six Day race left her hospitalised with a broken pelvis and vertebrae. James’ return to fitness has been a massive boost, however.

Main rivals: China’s Zhong Tianshi is the world champion and also medalled in 2014 and 2015. Kristina Vogel is another serious contender, with both the German and Tianshi having also won World Cup rounds last season. Australia’s Stephanie Morton set the fastest qualifying time in London at the worlds, meanwhile, to show her potential.

Prediction: James return to fitness is a huge boost for the Brits, but the 2013 world champion’s best medal hopes appear to be in the keirin. Whether Varnish could have done more will never be known, though recent form suggests not. Marchant qualified faster than Varnish at the worlds, but finished well down the pecking order. James should go further, but a medal may be a bridge too far. FOURTH

Men’s keirin

Who are they? Jason Kenny, Callum Skinner

London 2012 result: Sir Chris Hoy flew the British flag at London 2012, winning his sixth Olympic gold medal to go top of the all-time British list of medal winners.

Jason Kenny will also bid for a medal in the keirin (Pic: Alex Broadway/SWpix)

 

How are they shaping up? Jason Kenny reached the final of the men’s keirin at this year’s World Championships, but finished sixth – unable to repeat his 2013 victory. He was a finalist in 2014 too, but came in fifth on that occasion.

Main rivals: Germany’s Joachim Eilers won two rounds at last season’s World Cup and followed that up with victory at the World Championships. When it comes to the keirin he is proving to be the man to beat. New Zealand’s Eddie Dawkins is a perennial contender too, while Matthew Glaetzer won at the Commonwealth Games for Australia.

Prediction: Kenny has certainly found his form in the last 12 months, but since his victory at the worlds in 2013, keirin success has been hard to come by. He’s more than capable of reaching the final, however. FINAL

Women’s keirin

Who are they? Becky James

London 2012 result: Victoria Pendleton won an emotional gold medal for Great Britain, before announcing her retirement.

Becky James ended two years of injury hell with a bronze medal in the keirin at the 2016 UCI Track Cycling World Championships (Pic: Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com)

 

How are they shaping up? Welsh ace Becky James won two gold medals at the 2013 World Championships to emerge as Pendleton’s heir apparent but life threw her a bad hand thereafter. A persistent knee injury and a cancer scare brought a temporary halt to her burgeoning career, but she returned with a bang at this year’s World Championships and won keirin bronze.

Main rivals: Germany’s world champion Kristina Vogel has been unstoppable on her day, while Australia’s Anna Meares was her country’s flag bearer for the Rio opening ceremony – a clear pointer to the reverence with which she is held in her home country.

Prediction: James has put a turbulent couple of years behind her to re-emerge as a serious medal hope for Great Britain at the Olympics. She should reach the final, and we’ll back her to win a medal too. SILVER

RCUK’s predicted British medal haul

Three gold medals (men’s team pursuit, women’s team pursuit, women’s omnium), two silver (men’s sprint, women’s keirin), one bronze (men’s omnium)

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