It was hard to find a more emotional moment at last year's track world championships than Shane Perkins' victory in the keirin. The Australian heads into next week's 2012 championships knowing that he can achieve the highest success at senior level but also that expectations abound.
The 25-year-old admits that he's had a few ups and downs since he relegated Sir Chris Hoy to a silver medal in Apeldoorn, but he's optimistic that any loose ends are coming together.
"You always go into a race no matter how you're feeling or where your form is at trying to win and there is always a way to win, no matter what condition you're in," Perkins told Cyclingnews. "I've had a fairly good camp in the lead up over the last couple of weeks, with a couple of personal bests so I'll be looking at trying to emulate last year or at least podium in events.
"I think it adds a little bit more flavour to the year being an Australian, the fact that you've got your world championships in your home country in the same year as the Olympics so there's obviously a little bit more expectation from outsiders looking in. This is the last test before the Olympics so we'll be going out there and seeing what the training's done and the new things that we've tried in training, seeing if they've worked and basically fine-tuning things up until the Olympics."
Perkins moved to Adelaide to be closer to the Australian Institute of Sport staff from his preferred Melbourne base towards the end of last year in a bid to fine-tune his preparation for a big 2012 with small advantages crucial in track sprint disciplines.
Apart from contesting the keirin and the sprint at Melbourne's Hisense Arena next week, Perkins will also compete in the team sprint, alongside Scott Sunderland and young gun, Matthew Glaetzer. Perkins will start as first man in the event, something he's only been training specifically for the linchpin role for less than a year. The event has featured in Perkins' programs in the past but it's not an event he's previously dedicated himself to.
"There's been a lot more work done out of the gate," Perkins told Cyclingnews. "It hasn't changed things dramatically but there are some differences that we've had to make in my training that you know, perhaps has taken a little bit off my sprint and keirin performances but I think we'll start to see those pick up again if not next week then definitely in the lead up to the Olympics."
In 2011, the sprint had initially been Perkins' world championship focus purely because it was his first event of the competition. He pushed Frenchman Kévin Sireau into his first repechage round of the year before just missing out on the semi finals following a three-race arm wrestle with eventual silver medallist Jason Kenny, perhaps hampered by a muscle tear in his quadriceps. Nothing would hold him back though, and taking the attitude that "you don't have to always be on fire physically to win races," he outsmarted his rivals to be first across the line in the keirin, claiming his first senior world title, seven years after his victory in the event at junior worlds.
Perkins wasn't giving much away when he caught up with Cyclingnews, a week out from defending his title, leaving one feeling that his game face was already on.
"There is a fair bit of expectation from people, you know, if you've won it before you can definitely do it again type of thing – that's definitely a truth," he admitted. "But I'm not really feeling any pressure. I'm just worrying about what I've got to do. I'll go out there and run my race and if it's good enough to win, then it's good enough to win. I can't be disappointed if I've left everything out on the track and done everything I possibly can in the lead up to get the best performance, which I have done."
Once again, it's the sprint which will be contested first in the individual events, with competition kicking off Thursday with the final on Friday evening. The keirin will be the penultimate medal of the championships to be decided on Sunday. Having ticked the box with a rainbow jersey in the paced event, Perkins is eyeing success in the sprint.
"Knowing that I can win has given me confidence from last year and I've always had a passion for the keirin racing in Japan and things like that," Perkins explained. "I've now achieved one of my goals now that I've won a world title in that event and I'd definitely love to win more. One in the sprint would be fantastic."