Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Chris Hoy of Britain is a four-time Olympic and 10-time world champion cyclist.

CRUCIAL: British face action-packed five days against traditional rivals 

MELBOURNE:  THE Olympic gold-winning credentials of  track superpowers Great Britain faces a crucial test this week when traditional  rivals Australia host the 2012 World Championships.

   Held over five, action-packed days at the Hisense Arena, the event will  serve as a pre-London tune-up for most and a crucial stepping stone on the way to Olympic qualification for others.

   By Sunday, there should be little room for doubt concerning Olympic  selection. For those already assured of a place, what needs done to win Olympic  gold in five months' time will remain the biggest concern.

   Given their resounding success at the 2008 Olympics when they won seven of  10 track gold medals, most would expect Britain to be strutting towards their home Games in July.

   However, changes to the Olympic programme -- the men and women now compete  in the same five events and only one competitor is allowed per event -- as well  as efforts by rival teams to close the competitive gap mean Britain are no  longer assured an easy ride.

   Australia claimed only one medal, a sprint silver thanks to Anna Meares, in  Beijing but are now confident of challenging in most of the 10 Olympic events.

   "I don't think I'm being unrealistic in saying that we're in the hunt in  most of the Olympic events," Australia's high performance director Kevin  Tabotta said recently.

   Today the Australian men's team pursuit are expected to duel with Olympic champions and world record holders Britain as they aim for their third  world title since Beijing.

   Australia set a winning time of 3:54.615s, just outside the world record of 3:53.314, to beat Britain at the World Cup last month -- a defeat that Britain are desperate to avenge, preferably in London.

   "We will go to Melbourne to win, or at least to close the gap," said  Britain's start man Ed Clancy after Great Britain finished in 3:56.330.

   In the women's team sprint, the two-lap power event which will make its  Olympic debut, Anna and partner Kaarle McCulloch are widely expected to come up against British duo Victoria Pendleton and Jess Varnish.

   In London last month Anna and Kaarle beat their own world record,  before it was then eclipsed by Victoria and Jess as the Brits took a surprise gold.

   While Britain and Australia are expected to stake claims for medals in the women's team pursuit and omnium, other nations will be among the reckoning for the men's and women's sprint events of the sprint, keirin and team sprint.

   Despite being a four-time Olympic champion and the reigning champion in the  sprint, keirin and team sprint Sir Chris Hoy is duelling with England's Jason  Kenny for the sole sprint spot for London.

   The Scot underlined his Olympic ambitions in London last month when he won  the sprint and keirin titles and took silver in the team sprint, but despite  that success his place is not guaranteed.

   "Obviously selection hasn't been finalised for the British team yet so I'm  looking forward to putting in another good performance, hopefully in the  sprint, keirin and team sprint and try and stake my claim for selection," said Hoy.

   As well as from Kenny, Hoy is expected to meet stiff opposition from Frenchman Gregory Bauge, Australian Shane Perkins and a strong German team that also have eyes on the three-man sprint title. AFP

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