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Young guns!

The world track championships begin in Manchester, England, on Wednesday with the host nation’s Great Britain team expecting to dominate the five-day event. As if home advantage wasn’t enough, Team GB can lean on the experience and talent of riders such as Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and Victoria Pendleton, as well as the fast-track progression of a clutch of young hopefuls.

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The world track championships feature a bevy of fresh young stars from several nations.

By Jeremy Whittle

Two South Korean riders warm up on the track on Tuesday.

Two South Korean riders warm up on the track on Tuesday.

Photo: AFP PHOTO/MARTIN BUREAU

The world track championships begin in Manchester, England, on Wednesday with the host nation’s Great Britain team expecting to dominate the five-day event. As if home advantage wasn’t enough, Team GB can lean on the experience and talent of riders such as Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and Victoria Pendleton, as well as the fast-track progression of a clutch of young hopefuls.

For a nation that still struggles to understand the appeal of road racing, the lure of the track has become big business. The fresh-faced and chatty Pendleton, in particular, is enjoying a massive boost to her profile, even posing naked on her bike for the cover of one magazine, echoing Annie Liebovitz’s famous nude shot of Lance Armstrong, shot for Vanity Fair during the Texan’s heyday.

But the threat of this year’s track worlds becoming a Brit-fest will be tempered by the presence of other Beijing hopefuls, who like Team GB, are fine-tuning their squads prior to August’s Olympic Games. The presence of track stars such as Ryan Bailey of Australia, Theo Bos of Holland, Sarah Hammer of the USA, Juan Llaneras of Spain and Arnaud Tournant of France, will ensure that the medals are spread around.

The United States team, too often overshadowed by their rivals in past world track championships, can look to Hammer in the individual pursuit, the experienced and in-form Colby Pearce in the endurance events and, most intriguingly of all, Taylor Phinney, making his debut in the track worlds.

Hammer’s recent form took her to bronze in the final round of the World Cup in Copenhagen and she also finished second overall in the series. Pearce placed fifth in Denmark in the points race and also paired up with Bobby Lea to take second in the Madison, the event in which Wiggins and Cavendish hope to secure gold.

It’s no surprise that Phinney’s rapid rise is already making waves. If his name in itself wasn’t enough to create a buzz, his results certainly have been. World junior time trial champion last year, he won the gold medal in the individual pursuit in Los Angeles and finished second in the World Cup series overall.

And if Pendleton is attracting all the attention in the sprints, then Jennie Reed might make the most of the great expectations on the Briton’s shoulders. Reed, more of a Keirin specialist than Pendleton, finished second in the sprint and first in the Keirin in Los Angeles and will expect to be in the hunt for medals.

The men’s team pursuit will be one of the highlights with Great Britain, France and Australia battling to assert themselves in the final pre-Olympic showdown, and the women’s team pursuit is an exciting new innovation to the world’s program, which for the first time now stretches over five days.