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British track team gaining confidence for London 2012

The British track team is quietly confident it’s on the right track heading toward the 2012 Olympic Games

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LONDON (VN) – The British track team is quietly confident it’s on the right track heading toward the 2012 Olympic Games.

After winning five gold medals and earning hardware in seven of 10 Olympic disciplines that will be held on London’s brand new Olympic velodrome during this weekend’s World Cup stop, Team GB is hoping it will be hitting its stride just in time to defend its pride on home boards later this summer.

In 2008, Team GB dominated track racing, winning a total of 14 medals, eight of them gold. Whether the team can come close to repeating that success will be one of the big stories as London hosts the Summer Games.

Leading the charge is UK’s track team captain and sprint king Chris Hoy.
The Scot gained knighthood after bringing home three gold medals from
Beijing in the 2008 Olympic Games. After a strong showing this
week, it appears Hoy is hitting his stride just in time for an Olympic
defense.

Hoy took a dramatic sprint victory Sunday after winning gold in the
Keirin on Saturday and bronze in the team sprint Friday.

“We can take a lot from this, it’s the best we’ve been as a team since
Beijing,” Hoy said Sunday. “It reminds me of the world championships
in 2008, that feeling that we’re on a roll now.”

Team GB gave rowdy, sell-out crowds something to cheer about during
four days of competition in the stylish venue that made its debut over
the weekend during the Olympic test event.

The crowd came alive whenever a British rider hit the boards. Team
pursuiter Ed Clancy described the crowd noise as a “wall of sound.”

“It was so loud when we were racing, I was shaking on the bike,” said
star sprinter Victoria Pendleton. “That helps us lift our game. We
don’t want to disappoint the home crowds.” Whether that kind of
pressure can backfire remains to be seen.

Changes in the track program mean that there will be fewer medals
offered on the boards. For 2012, there will be five medal events for
both men and women. Gone are the points race, the Madison and the
individual pursuit on the men’s side while the women see the addition
of team sprint, the keirin, team pursuit and omnium.

Hoy and Pendleton headline the UK track unit, though final selection
won’t come until later this summer.

Pendleton won gold in the women’s team sprint with new partner Jess
Varnish, but didn’t medal in the sprint (coming in fourth) or keirin (fifth).

“There’s no need to panic now,” Pendleton said. “August is still a
ways away. The time to hit your peak is then, not now. I can take a
lot of out of this weekend. I love the track and I am extra-motivated
to race in front of these crowds.”

Arch-rival Australia promises to not go down without a fight. The team
brings a stacked squad loaded with new talent, such as Cameron Meyer
and Jack Bobridge. Australia beat back defending team pursuit
champions Team GB on Sunday.

“We know we have some work to do,” said Geraint Thomas, a member of
the 2008 winning TP squad. “It won’t be a stroll through the park.
Australia will be a touch rival, but we believe we can go faster.”

Gone are reigning double individual and team pursuit champion Bradley
Wiggins, who will chase Olympic medals on the road instead, as well as
world champion Mark Cavendish, who raced the Madison in Beijing and
was the only member of the British track team not to medal in China
after he and Wiggins fell flat in the Madison.

Expectations will be sky high come August. BBC and other UK media
promise blanket coverage of the track. For this weekend’s event, more
than 700 journalists were credentialed for this weekend’s World Cup
leg. Team GB promises to give them something positive to write about.