Following the dominant display of the British team at its home International Cycling Union (UCI) Track World Cup event in Manchester, all eyes will again be on the red, white and blue as its riders head Down Under for the series’ Melbourne leg.
The Victorian capital proved itself a great venue to the Australian round of the series last season, a result of passionate public support for cycling. That passion adds to a great venue and a tradition of hosting the world’s best track events.
The 2004 UCI Track World Championships were held on the Hisense Arena’s boards, then known as Vodafone Arena, and the titles will be returning there in 2012. With a summer of cycling ahead for the Australians, there’s sure to be plenty of interest from the locals.
And for good reason, headlining the event is Beijing Olympic Games silver medallist and current women’s team sprint champion Anna Meares. The Australian has recorded good times so far this season and is focused on taking back her world record in the 500m time trial at next year’s World Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Meares will be confronted by Chinese stalwart Shuang Guo, who was disqualified in the semi-final of the women’s sprint against Meares in Beijing last August. She traditionally rides well in the World Cup events and the potential match up at the pointy end of the competition should be a highlight of the meet. Dutch pair Willy Kanis and Yvonne Hijgenaar should also be in the mix, the duo providing the only highlights for De Oranje in Manchester.
Sky +HD come to the men’s sprint with classy fast man Ross Edgar while Great Britain’s national team brings Matt Crampton. They’ll be up against Malaysian sensation Azizul Awang, who stole the hearts of the local crowd last November with his speed and showman ‘wheelie’ finishes.
Australia’s male sprinters traditionally perform well on home soil; Shane Perkins and Jason Niblett will be riding on home turf, providing extra motivation for the two fast men. With Dan Ellis and Scott Sunderland rounding out the Aussie men’s sprint crew, look out for fast times and thrilling racing.
The anglo-saxon outfits will be pushed hard by the Gallic flair of the French sprinters; the likes of Kévin Sireau and Gregory Bauge enjoy the trip down under and make the most of it with solid performances that dazzle the crowd at times. Watch for some quick times from the men coached by former world champion Arnaud Tournant.
As is normally the case in Melbourne the endurance riders will get plenty of support from a knowledgeable crowd that loves its points race and Madison. This season, the Australian World Cup round offers a special treat in the form of points race world champion Cameron Meyer, up against experienced British rider Chris Newton and Walter Perez.
In the team pursuit the all-conquering Brits - boasting Ed Clancy, Steven Burke and Andrew Tennant - will go into the Melbourne as favourites courtesy of a 3:54.395 ride in Manchester. An interesting three-way battle is anticipated as the youthful Australian team of Cameron Meyer, Rohan Dennis, Luke Durbridge and Michael Hepburn plus the spirited New Zealand squad will try and push their fancied opponents all the way.
While the long trip to Australia means many national teams bring smaller squads to Melbourne, the atmosphere of an appreciative public and eagerness of young riders keen to impress make amends for the somewhat depleted numbers. Whilst some of the big names such as Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton may be missing, the chances of some surprises are high in the Victorian capital.