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By Staff and wire reports
Britain’s rich array of track-cycling talent is preparing to battle their Australian, French and Dutch rivals at the world championships beginning Thursday in Bordeaux, France.
At last year’s world’s in Los Angeles, Britain’s track team dominated the competition with four gold medals, and six medals in total. And at this year’s Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia, they showed that once again they are on form. Riders from Scotland, England, Wales and even the Isle of Man got to fly their national flag on the games’ podium.
But both Australia and France have a thing or two to prove after last year’s comparatively disappointing performances in California. The Netherlands will be looking to add to last year’s medal haul, which included gold from Theo Bos in the kilometer and Teun Mulder in the keirin, and silver in the team sprint behind Britain.
And after being shut out on its home turf last year, the United States is hoping for good things from its women trackies after a successful 2005-06 World Cup season.
Host nation out for revenge
France dominated the competition the last time the worlds were held at Bordeaux-Lac eight years ago, grabbing six of the 12 titles on offer. But a lot has changed since then, and France will be happy to improve on its 2005 performance, when the team won just one gold and one silver medal in Los Angeles.
One Frenchman to watch is the physically powerful sprint specialist Gregory Bauge, who is coached by Florian Rousseau, winner of two Olympic gold medals and an impressive 10 world titles before retiring to take up a job with the French federation.
Bauge signaled his bid to succeed Germany’s reigning world champion Rene Wolff by securing the World Cup sprint title last month. He will ride the individual event on Sunday and be the lead-off man for France’s three-man team sprint on Thursday.
Aussies on a roll after Commonwealth Games
Australia rode powerfully in Melbourne, winning seven gold, five silver and three bronze medals, but at last year’s world’s they collected just one gold, in the individual pursuit (Katie Mactier), and three bronzes, in the team sprint, the sprint (Jobi Dajka) and the keirin (Shane Kelly).
Australia’s first bid to grab a medal will come Thursday when sisters Anna and Kerrie Meares line up in the final of the 500-meter time trial, having won gold and bronze, respectively, in Melbourne.
Natalia Tsylinskaya of Belarus, the defending champion, will take some beating, however. And Dutch rider Yvonne Hijgenaar is also a contender, having shown good form at the Sydney World Cup round a month ago.
Mactier is eager to defend her world title in Bordeaux.
“Physically I’m in peak condition but certainly I’m feeling emotionally tired from the overwhelming experience of the Melbourne Commonwealth Games,” said Mactier. “But putting that aside, nothing could be more motivating than lining up to defend my world title.”
Olympic keirin and sprint champion Ryan Bayley is motivated, too.
“The sprint will be hard because the French will have a home-crowd advantage, and Dutchman Theo Bos (2004 sprint World Champion) is always fast and getting faster, but I know I can beat him because I’ve done it before,” he said.
U.S. team hoping for a better world’s
USA Cycling is also hoping to improve upon its performance of a year ago, when Team USA was shut out of the medals in Los Angeles.
“We’re excited about the next four days,” said Pat McDonough, USA Cycling’s director of track cycling programs. “We’ve got a solid mix of talented riders that are capable of producing immediate results and a future crop of athletes that is going to gain valuable international experience.”
Of the four women representing the U.S., all have medaled in World Cup competition this season. Collectively, they have won nine World Cup medals since November, four of them coming from Sarah Hammer, who will compete in the individual pursuit and the points race.
The only men’s sprinter to medal during the 2005-06 World Cup season, Michael Blatchford, is not racing due to injury. Blatchford won bronze in the sprint during January’s UCI World Cup race in Los Angeles. The U.S. also will not have entries in either the kilo or the Madison.
Team USA for track world’s
Women: Sara Hammer, Kristin Armstrong, Becky Quinn, Jennie Reed
Men: Stephen Alfred, Ben Barczewski, Giddeon Massie, Christian Stahl, Brad Huff, Michael Friedman, Michael Creed, Danny Pate, Bobby Lea, Taylor Tolleson
Schedule of events
Thursday, April 13
Women’s 500-meter time trial
Women’s individual pursuit
Men’s team sprint
Men’s 40km points race
Friday, April 14
Women’s 25km points race
Men’s individual pursuit
Men’s kilometer time trial
Saturday, April 15
Men’s 15km scratch
Men’s team pursuit
Sunday, April 16
Women’s 10km scratch
Men’s 50km Madison