Olympic and World Champion, Brad McGee, moved a step closer to his goal of a fourth Olympic Games berth with a solid performance in the individual pursuit on day one of the Track Cycling Worlds in Manchester, but missed a chance to ride for a medal.
McGee was fifth fastest in qualifying, posting his fastest time since 2004 when he claimed silver in the event at the Athens Olympic Games along with gold in the teams pursuit. He completed the four kilometre distance in a time of 4'20"430, more than ten seconds faster than the time he rode at January's Los Angeles World Cup. Cycling Australia coach, Martin Barras, predicted he will continue to improve.
"It would have been nice to get a second round in for him, but he's made substantial progress and looks to have put his health problems behind him," said Barras. "With a bit more racing on the road and track preparation we're extremely confident he'll be right."
For his part, McGee had also hoped for a second ride, but accepted he has a way to go to challenge for a medal. "I rode to the level I am at now and you can't ask for more than that," said McGee, who will line up on Thursday with Graeme Brown, Mark Jamieson and senior team debutant Jack Bobridge for the qualifying round of the team pursuit.
In the men's team sprint, Australia also finished fifth and out of the medals after a qualifying time of 44"614 from the trio of Daniel Ellis, Mark French and Ben Kersten. "It was a little disappointing as we were hoping to get a second ride," said Barras. "Not necessarily to medal but what we want to do at World Championships in an Olympic year is have a chance to assess ... and clarify... who's going to get the gig."
The French were the dominant team of the competition, defeating Great Britain by almost half a second in the gold medal final. Barras admitted a gold medal in the team sprint in Beijing will be difficult to achieve. "The work to be done by ourselves and the Brits (Great Britain) is substantial."
Promising debut for youngsters
Two riders with their eyes on the 2012 Olympic Games made their World Championship debut. Sydney's Kaarle McCulloch, who claimed the 500m time trial and sprint titles at the Australian Championships last month, finished 12th in the 500m time trial final and admitted the experience was a little daunting.
"It showed in my time as I didn't go as fast as I wanted to," said McCulloch. "I wanted to do a PB which meant a time faster than 34.8 but I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders now and I can't wait to do the sprint and keirin."
"Kaarle was a little overwhelmed but that's why we bring these 'kids' to the Worlds," said Barras. "It's one thing to do it in comfort at home and another to do it under the big lights. It's the same with Leigh Howard (who finished last in the Scratch Race), it's a first experience and they are both great talents with an eye to 2012 and we believe firmly in them."
Day two begins with the teams pursuit qualifying before Ryan Bayley, Daniel Ellis, Mark French and Shane Perkins contest the men's sprint qualifying. Victorian Katie Mactier will race in the women's individual pursuit.