Australia's hopes in next month's opening round of the 2007-2008 UCI Track World Cup Classics series being staged at Sydney's Dunc Gray Velodrome from November 30 to December 2 will be bolstered by the return of several 2004 Olympic Games champions. Dual Olympic Champion, Graeme Brown, who won gold in the Madison, will be joined by fellow teams pursuit champions and world record holders Brett Lancaster and Luke Roberts, with the trio racing on the track for 'The Cyclones' for the first time since 2004.
Brown, Lancaster and Roberts turned their attention to professional road careers after the 2004 Olympic Games, with Brown now racing with Rabobank, Lancaster with Milram and Roberts with Team CSC, but all have signalled they will bid for selection in the 2008 Olympic Games team.
Cycling Australia Endurance Coach, Ian McKenzie, says the return of our Athens stars will boost the depth of the endurance talent pool. "It is certainly significant for us that these riders want to gain selection for 2008," said McKenzie. "But it won't be a case of them just slipping back in because we have some keen young talent with their sights set on Beijing as well.
"Having more riders vying for selection creates a more competitive environment and makes everyone work harder," McKenzie added. "I've spoken to them about what is required and they all know there is no room for egos in our camp. They are all professionals and know that everyone has to earn their place no matter what they've achieved in the past."
Changes to the qualification criteria for Beijing have made performances at the four-round World Cup Series and the 2008 World Championships, being staged in Manchester, England in March, more important than in years gone by. "The UCI (International Cycling Union) has determined World Cup series Champions and World Champions in individual events will qualify a place in Beijing (pending NOC endorsement) which means there will be fierce competition in all the World Cup rounds," said McKenzie. "I expect the very best riders in the world will be in Sydney and, while there may possibly be a couple of individuals missing, across all the events teams will be at full strength."
The Cycling Australia selection policy for Beijing mandates endurance cyclists have to attend two training camps and race in two international competitions before the selection deadline. The Australians will go into camp in Adelaide in November ahead of the Sydney World Cup round.
Brown, Lancaster and Roberts attended a one week Australian endurance camp in the German town of Buttgen in August which gave McKenzie an opportunity to assess how they adapted to being back on the track. "We were pretty pleased with how it went," said McKenzie. "They were all keen and their track skills came back within a day."
Having a bigger talent pool at his disposal means McKenzie will have the luxury of trying different combinations for the teams pursuit and it adds to Australia's chances in the other endurance events including the Madison, which Australia has won at the past two Olympic Games.
The opening round of the UCI World Cup Classics series will be staged at Sydney's Dunc Gray Velodrome from November 30 to December 2.
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