Riders have been testing their legs and equipment on the open-air velodrome in Guadeloupe, before the start of the 2014 European Track Championships begin on Wednesday.
A total of 246 athletes from 23 different European countries will be fighting for the European titles and also the important ranking points that lead to qualification for the UCI World Cup events and in turn for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.
The road Rio starts with events on the 333m concrete open-air track in the city of Baie-Mahault, with the heat, humidity and the rough surface as much an obstacle as their rivals.
The racing begins on Wednesday afternoon with Team Pursuit qualification, while the first titles will be awarded on Thursday in the men's and women's Team Sprint and Team Pursuit events. The racing ends on Sunday with the men's and women's Keirin events. A total of 17 European titles will be awarded during the four days of racing.
Riders trained on the track for the first time on Monday, with a spectacular sunset offering a backdrop to their laps on the track.
In a blog on Sky Sports, British rider Joanna Rowsell talked about the differences on racing on a 333m open-air concrete track. Like many of the riders, she is happy to be competing in the warmth of the Caribbean but predicted the track will play a significant factor in the racing.
“It’s going to be an interesting few days because of the track out here, which is unlike anything I’ve ever come across before," Rowsell wrote.
“To begin with, it has no roof and is fully open, and then there’s the fact it's 333m long (as opposed to the conventional 250m). Next, and this is the most interesting part, the track itself is made out of concrete, not wood, and finally, it’s tropical storm season over here, so there’s a good chance of rain while we’re racing. All in all, it’s going to be quite an experience.”
As current world champions in the team pursuit, the Great Britain will be the nation to beat. Also in the Great Britain endurance squad, fighting for the three places, are Laura Trott, Elinor, Katie Archibald and Ciara Horne of Wales. Great Britain has sent a 15-rider team to Guadeloupe.
France has also fielded a strong team just a few days after its national championships, Ireland fields teams in both the women's and men's Team Pursuit events for the first time, with Martyn Irvine in action in the Team Pursuit and Individual Pursuit. Irvine won the Scratch world title this year and took silver in the Individual Pursuit. He raced with the UnitedHealthcare squad in the USA but has recently opted to return home.
Cannondale professional rider Elia Viviani leads the Italian team of 12 riders as they also chase vital qualification points.