By Les Clarke
With some of the world's best track riders competing at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, one of the most hotly contested events will be the men's team pursuit. England, Australia and New Zealand will be the teams to watch, with many tipping an England-Australia final, much in the mould of a traditional rivalry that exists between the two countries.
England's team will include Steve Cummings, Rob Hayles, Chris Newton and Paul Manning, the four riders who won gold at last year's world championships for Great Britain. They bring great experience to the team and will be the big hitters of the squad, joined by several quality young riders.
The Australian squad consists of five riders, and according to Cycling Australia's high performance manager Kevin Tabotta, all five may ride if track endurance coach Ian Mackenzie decides that different combinations should be utilised throughout the competition. Matt Goss, Mark Jamieson, Peter Dawson, Stephen Wooldridge and Ashley Hutchinson are the five riders selected for the team pursuit, all five having trained and raced together in the past.
Mackenzie will nominate the four starting riders after this afternoon's training session where there will be some 'fine tuning' done to the crew before track competition begins in Melbourne on March 16. Australia has enjoyed success in the event in the past, with a strong combination of power through road sprinters such as Graeme Brown, and quality endurance riders such as Brad McGee, whose strength in the individual pursuit makes him such a valuable asset to a team.
These two riders will be missing in Melbourne, however, but Mackenzie and Australian team management are confident that this fairly young Australian quintet have improved on their bronze medal performance at the 2005 world championships and are well-drilled and ready to race. Tabotta believes it will come down to the old adage of 'whoever is best on the day will take home the prize'; all that's left to do is sit back and enjoy what should be one of the most exciting events of the games.