By Mal Sawford in Bordeaux
The pinnacle of track cycling returns to France for 2006, with the fast Bordeaux track to host the event after the last two years were held in Los Angeles (2005) and Melbourne (2004). Racing promises to be fascinating, with virtually all the defending champions returning. Close to 300 riders from 38 countries will participate across the four days of competition, with fifteen gold medals to be awarded.
Racing kicks off on Thursday with the first medal the women's 500 metre time trial. Australian World record holder and Olympic champion Anna Meares showed signs of a return to her 2004 form with a win in the Commonwealth Games, but will have to overcome not only her older sister Kerrie, but Russia's defending champion Natallia Tsylinskaya.
Katie Mactier, another of the Australian women, will be hard to beat in the individual pursuit, which will also be decided on day one. Since claiming the 2005 world title, Mactier has not been beaten over 3000 metres - but compatriot Kate Bates came within two seconds of an upset at the recent Commonwealth Games. English speaking riders will be hard to keep out of the medals in the pursuit, with Wendy Houvenaghel (Britain) and Sarah Hammer (USA) the top ranked riders in the World Cup standings after Mactier sat out most rounds.