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British cycling chief Dave Brailsford is confident his Olympic squad will blaze a trail to the podium in Beijing by medaling in 11 of the sport’s 18 finals.
The Manchester-based Performance Director of British track cycling conceded, however, they could leave some medal opportunities for their rivals.
A total of 54 medals will be on offer from the 18 finals in cycling’s four disciplines of road cycling, track, mountain bike and BMX in Beijing, and 30 of those medals will be won at the Laoshan velodrome.
Britain is realistically aiming for over half of the 10 track titles, but Brailsford is also expecting similar success stories from the likes of Welshwoman Nicole Cooke (road) and England’s Shanaze Reade (BMX).
“When you look across the medal opportunities it’s been driven by the track but on the road we have Nicole Cooke, Shanaze Reade, who is the reigning world champion, and in mountain biking we have Liam Killeen, who was fourth in the worlds,” said Brailsford.
“We have a realistic chance for medals in 11 out of the 18 events. It’s absolutely the best British team that’s ever left British shores.”
Four years after returning from the Athens velodrome with two golds, a silver and bronze the Brits now have far bigger expectations. Scotland’s Chris Hoy is aiming for three titles in the team sprint, keirin and sprint while Bradley Wiggins is aiming for three gold in the individual and team pursuit and the Madison, where is paired with Mark Cavendish.
Victoria Pendleton is a two-time world champion in the women’s sprint and a big favorite for gold while Rebecca Romero tackles the women’s individual pursuit also as the reigning world champion.
Britain set a new world record of 3min 56.322sec for the 16-lap team pursuit when they hosted the world championships in March in Manchester, where they gleaned nine of the 18 gold medals on offer.
But Brailsford believes they won’t have it so easy in the Olympic final, where the likes of Australia and the improving Danes – thanks to some high altitude fine tuning – are expected to challenge.
“Everyone thinks we’re just going to show up and win it. It’s going to be a close call,” added Brailsford. “The Danes have stepped up. They’ve been training at altitude; they’ve gone all out and taken some risks. If it pays off, they’re going to be fantastic. If it doesn’t they’re going to be rubbish.”
The track competition, arguably the highlight of the Games’ cycling events, begins on Friday, August 15, with Britain’s three-man sprint team, silver medalists at world level, hoping to oust world champions France.
In a sport, where each thousandth of a second is precious, Brailsford is supremely confident his team is ready.
“We know across the board where we are at, and we know more or less where the opposition is. We know what sort of times we are looking to ride,” he said. “So rather than working on medals, which are kind of out of our control, we work on specific target times and processes. If we achieve those, then that’s a success, the ultimate success if you like.”