Cycling Australia has announced the riders who will wear the green and gold national team strip at this weekend's Track Cycling World Championships in Bordeaux, France, April 13-16. The team will include six riders who recently won gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.
Australia's head track coach, Martin Barras believes the team has maintained the form that put them at the top of the Melbourne medal table. "We're quite happy with the way everyone has been performing in training here and I think we did the smart thing in letting them back off and have a bit of a break after Melbourne," said Barras.
The Commonwealth Games was the team's main objective for the year, and Barras is unwilling to predict how his riders will perform at the world's. "We overachieved [in Melbourne] so in that sense we are in a comfortable position where we can come in to the Worlds with minimal pressure," he said. "But our athletes are ambitious people and several of them have experience with backing up for major competitions with little time in between."
Australia's effort at Bordeaux will start with Anna and Kerrie Meares riding the 500m time trial on the first night of competition. The pair, who achieved gold and bronze respectively in Melbourne, will have to contend with a strong European challenge in Bordeaux. Start lists are yet to be finalised but Natalia Tsylinskaya of Belarus is the defending champion and Dutch rider Yvonne Hijgenaar demonstrated good recent form at the Sydney World Cup round a month ago.
"I'm quietly confident," said Barras of Anna Meares' chances. "The big question will be how she has pulled up physically after Melbourne but so far we haven't seen any recurrence of the back injury problems that plagued her Commonwealth Games preparation."
The team sprint trio of Shane Perkins, Ryan Bayley and Shane Kelly will also race on day one of competition but will start as underdogs behind reigning world champions, Great Britain whilst Germany and the Netherlands are also tipped for podium places.
Barras isn't putting much pressure on his team sprint riders. He has longer term goals. "For the team sprint this week is very much the first step in the two year rebuild for the Beijing Olympics," he said.
Ryan Bayley will also ride the sprint and keirin, events in which he is now reigning Olympic and Commonwealth champion. "The Commonwealth Games gave me a lot of confidence and since then I've had some good training," said Bayley. "I'm a rider that when my legs are good my head's good and my tactics are good and my legs are pretty good at the moment."
The aftermath of his Olympic success left Bayley flat for a while, but this time round he says he is still motivated. "I knew Bordeaux was coming and I had a goal to reset for," he said. "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."
In the endurance events reigning world and newly crowned Commonwealth Games individual pursuit champion, Katie Mactier and team mate, Kate Bates, the pursuit silver medallist in Melbourne and at last year's World Championships are hoping to again go one-two for Australia.
"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."
Victorian, Sean Finning, who decimated his opposition to claim gold in the points race in Melbourne will find the competition stiffer in Bordeaux but comes into the event still brimming with Commonwealth Games confidence.
Sprint riders: Ryan Bayley; Shane Kelly; Ben Kersten; Joel Leonard; Anna Meares; Kerrie Meares; Shane Perkins
Endurance riders: Katherine Bates; Simon Clarke; Peter Dawson; Sean Finning; Matthew Goss; Ashley Hutchinson; Mark Jamieson; Katie Mactier; Miles Olman; Stephen Wooldridge.