Cyclists from 35 nations will be in action in Manchester this weekend as the city hosts round three...
Cyclists from 35 nations will be in action in Manchester this weekend as the city hosts round three of the Track World Cup from January 7-9. Olympic gold medallists and World Champions head the 200-strong entry for cyclingâs first major international clash of 2005, which includes 15 Cup events - nine for men and six for women - ranging in distance from 500 metres to 50 kilometres.
Highlights at the indoor Velodrome include Chris Hoyâs first kilometre race since he won the Olympic title in record time almost five months ago. The Scottish powerhouse, who was made an MBE in the Queenâs New Yearâs Honours, is favourite to take the kilometre time trial on Friday evening. Hoy also contests Sundayâs Japanese Keirin invitation event and is a member of Britainâs Team Sprint squad, alongside fellow Olympians Jason Queally and Craig MacLean.
Olympic pursuit champion Bradley Wiggins, a new OBE, is aiming for success in the endurance events. He faces his toughest test in the points race, where Russiaâs Olympic gold medallist and current World Cup leader Mikhael Ignatiev will be the man to beat. Athens medallist Rob Hayles is also targeting the individual pursuit, and a clash with his old rival Sergi Escobar of Spain, who narrowly defeated Hayles in last yearâs World Championship final, is on the cards.
The womenâs events include the points race where the top three in the World Cup standings, Lyudmyla Vypyraylo (Ukraine), Erin Mirabella (USA) and Alexis Rhodes (Australia) are chasing the overall title. Also competing will be Nicole Cooke (Great Britain) and Katherine Bates (Australia). Bates, who like Cooke is a Commonwealth champion, hit top form in last Easterâs World Cup at Manchester, scoring a pursuit and points race double.
Much interest will be centred on the Keirin, in which Britainâs Victoria Pendleton will aim for a repeat of her round two victory at Los Angeles. Victoria goes into the Keirin with a five-point lead over Germanyâs Susann Panzer, with Elisa Frisoni of Italy a further point in arrears. Clara Sanchez, the World Champion in the discipline, makes her World Cup 2004/5 debut.
Sunday will see the special Japanese Keirin, sponsored by the Japan Keirin Association, with stars from around the world bidding for a slice of the Â£45,000 prize fund.