A full compliment of Aussie track sprinters is set to light up the boards at Revolution 1 on Saturday, November 24 at Melbourne's Vodafone Arena. While there'll be a healthy representation of competitive internationals - here for the following week's Track World Cup event in Sydney - the Aussies toughest test may well be between themselves as they strive for first blood in the selection battle for the limited Sprint and Keirin positions for Beijing.
At the launch of Revolution in Melbourne last week, reigning Sprint and Keirin Gold medallist, Ryan Bayley said he was "feeling stronger, feeling faster and was improving all the time". Joining Bayley at Revolution in the battle for a place on the Australian team will be Ben Kersten, Shane Perkins, Scott Sunderland, Mark French and Jason Niblett; with acceptances still likely from Shane Kelly and emerging star Daniel Ellis.
On a recent four-event team trip to the US, Bayley showed strong form, winning twice and finishing runner up twice. There were also outstanding performances from French, Niblett, Ellis and even Kelly got in on the action. The Aussies completely dominated the Sprint and Keirin racing with only Italian flier Roberto Chiappa offering any real resistance.
Shane Perkins is one rider reported to be flying and keen to throw his name back into the ring of potential candidates for selection. "I'm pretty happy with the way I'm going," said Perkins. "I'm looking forward to racing at the Revolution Series. It promises to be great racing with many of the Australian team there. With the Olympics looming there is going to be a lot of competitiveness in whatever events we ride together and whoever performs well at Revolution will come away with a lot of confidence."
Australian Head Track Coach Martin Barras explained that Australia will most likely qualify two riders for each of the Sprint and Keirin events for Beijing, assuming the team rides up to its ranking in the World Cups and World Championships.
"Once the line-up for Revolution is completed, people will realise it's not only a very competitive Australian line-up, it will be a very competitive international line-up and that adds not only to the prestige, but to the importance of the event," said Barras. "In that sense Revolution will be a very important confidence builder should any rider come out of it with a good result."
But in a sport often decided by hundredths-of-a-second, it's not all about times. "Times are one thing and times are important," added Barras. "Times essentially give you a look into selection, but ultimately results under pressure is where it's at, because the Olympics is all about pressure. And the World Championships will be about pressure because the athletes will know they're riding for a place on the Olympic team."
Talking about handling pressure, Perkins admits that you need experience at big events and the atmosphere that comes with them in order to learn how to control emotions. "Experience is the biggest thing, but having good people around you that make you relaxed and confident that you can do what you've gone there to do is also vital," explained Perkins.
Barras isn't playing favourites, with selection to be based on form and results in the lead-up to Beijing. After Revolution 1 there is the Sydney World Cup event, closely followed by the Beijing World Cup; then Revolution 2 back in Australia just before Christmas. There are another two World Cups in early 2008, then the World Championships in March.
"Selection will be heavily based on the results of the World Championships in March 2008 in Manchester," noted Barras. "And will be based solely on performance with the goal of fielding the very best team for Australia."