By Daniel Benson
Olympic track hero Jamie Staff will lead the Great Britain team at the World Track Championships in Pruszkow, Poland, this week. The 35-year-old will be one of the team's most experienced riders, and will join fellow Olympians Ed Clancy, Jason Kenny and Victoria Pendleton. However the team will be without three of its Olympic champions – Bradley Wiggins, Sir Chris Hoy and Rebecca Romero.
"This is an experimental year in many regards, with a mix of experience and youth," Staff told Cyclingnews on of the Championships. "David Brailsford [British Cycling's Performance Director] has told us to go out there to enjoy and learn, so that's certainly helping take some of the pressure off the less experienced members of the team. Overall the mood in the camp is really good and everyone is relaxed."
Great Britain have dominated the last two Championships, in Majorca and Manchester, and won a total of seven Olympic gold medals in last year's Beijing Olympics, meaning they'll be many people's favourites to take home a flurry of gold medals once again. However with several members of the Olympic team missing and the team firmly focusing on the London Olympics in 2012, expectations have been lowered somewhat.
"Our preparation hasn't been as smooth as it was for the Olympics. We tapered for Beejing but this attempt has been a bit rushed. The positive is that we've all kept our form since the Olympics. I'm not recovering as well as last year and I'm not doing the same training volume but my top end speed is still there, and in my event that's what counts." said Staff.
With Sir Chris Hoy unable to compete after a crash in the last round of the World Cup in Copenhagen, Britain's male sprint team went through a round of trials earlier this month with the final line up decided with Staff, Jason Kenny and Matt Crampton – who is set to come into the Man 3 spot for the first time at a World Championships – set to compete.
"The French team will be our biggest challengers. They won the event last year in Manchester and riders like Gregory Bauge have been doing a lot of sprinting over the last few months."
However Staff won't just be racing at the Championships. The former BMX racer will be commentating on the proceedings once he's finished on the track. "I did some commentary at the World Cup in Manchester for the BBC and I'll be working for Eurosport in Poland this time around. It's really hard and you have to do a lot of preparation, a bit like track racing."
Full British Squad:
Men: Matthew Crampton, David Daniell, Ross Edgar, Jason Kenny, Jamie Staff, Jonathan Bellis, Steven Burke, Mark Cavendish, Ed Clancy, Peter Kennaugh, Chris Newton
Women: Anna Blyth, Victoria Pendleton, Shanaze Reade, Jess Varnish, Lizzie Armitstead, Katie Colclough, Wendy Houvenaghel, Joanna Rowsell