Cameron Meyer believes Australia's dominant performance at the Delhi Commonwealth Games is a signal that the nation will be able to challenge Britain's position as the top Olympic Games track cycling team at the London Olympics in 2012.
Meyer himself claimed three of the 12 gold medals awarded to Australians on the track in Delhi and told Cyclingnews that the team's performance as a whole showed that they are on course for a strong showing in two years' time.
"Obviously in Beijing the British team were the strong nation and they've really stamped their authority as the number one track cycling team. But over the last two years' world championships the Australian team has really come back into form," he said. "We've got a lot of young riders who've really shown maturity with the results that they're achieving.
"I think when we get to London in two years' time it's going to be a closer contest between the Australian and British teams," he added. "I think we've shown we'll be one of the favourites and hopefully we can really take it up to the Brits."
Meyer took gold in both the men's points and scratch races, and joined Jack Bobridge, Michael Hepburn and Dale Parker to win the men's 4000m team pursuit. The latter was achieved with a time of 3:55.421, a new Commonwealth record and the fastest time in history by an Australian quartet. He then completed a busy programme by joining the Australian men's team for the road race on Sunday, an event won by teammate Allan Davis.
"I got more than what I expected out of the competition. My main aim going in was the points race and I achieved that, then to top it off with the fastest time by an Aussie team in the team pursuit was unbelievable, and the scratch race on top of that was an added bonus. I couldn't ask for much more," he said.
Meyer said the decision by a number of Great Britain's top track riders to forgo the Commonwealth games hadn't disrupted Australia's expectations at the event. British Olympic gold medallists Sir Chris Hoy (Scotland) and Victoria Pendleton (England) announced in July that they would instead attend the European championships in November, while Team Sky rider and British pursuit star Geraint Thomas (Wales) withdrew citing fears over Dengue fever.
"It was a little bit disappointing and to be honest there was a little bit of anxiety at the start of the championships, thinking 'oh, they're pulling out, should we pull out as well?' But the Aussie team stayed really focused and we had a goal of coming here and performing at our best," he said. "At the end of the day, we just had to stay focused on our performance. We did that and it showed in the results. We're very pleased that we came here and with what we've done."
Maturity the key for London 2012
At 22, Meyer matches the average age of the Australian track team at the Commonwealth Games, yet he represents one of the more experienced members of the track squad. He finished fourth in the points race at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and this year defended his 2009 points race world championship in Denmark, as well as pairing with Leigh Howard to add the Madison world title to his palmares.
"I think it's really important to get that feel here at a smaller games for what the Olympics are," said Meyer of the role that the Delhi games play in the lead-up to London. "We're quite a young Australian team and a lot of the riders hadn't been to a Games before. For them to get the feel for what a Games is about; the media exposure and racing in front of a lot of people back home in Australia will help them get some idea of what the Olympics will be like. To get the success they did here, I think that will really help them to settle in in London in two years' time."
With the points race and Madison both stripped from the Olympic track programme for 2012, Meyer said the team pursuit will be treated as the marquee endurance event. He was also part of the Australian squad that broke a three-year drought for the nation in the team pursuit at this year's world championships, relegating Great Britain to second place.
"Obviously the programme here [at the Commonwealth Games] was a little bit different to what it will be in London. Especially for me, as my events the points race and the Madison have been taken out, which is a bit sad. But with the results we've had with the team pursuit at the world championships and now here, the guys' focus is really about London. It's not that far away and we've got to keep everything rolling in the right direction and really stay motivated."
Garmin help Meyer stay on track
Meyer confirmed that he will continue to juggle his track objectives with those of his professional road team, Garmin-Slipstream. He will fit into the Garmin-Cervélo for next season and said the team has remained supportive throughout his first two years with the squad, which also home to his brother Travis and team pursuit teammate Bobridge.
"I have a contract with Garmin-Cervélo next year, but it ends at the end of 2011, so in terms of 2012 I don't know exactly where I will be. But Cycling Australia's high performance program and Garmin have a good relationship, and we work out the best way to please both parties in terms of the track and the road," he said.
"Garmin have been really good to me and allowed me to follow my track ambitions while I'm still young in my career. Heading towards London I'm sure they're still happy for me to continue with whatever I need to to be prepared enough for the track in London; everything's working well so far."