Cycling Australia has named a 20-rider squad for next month's London Track World Championships with a mix of experience and youth it hopes will deliver gold medal success. There are 12 riders with world titles to their name in the squad, including Anna Meares, Annette Edmondson, and Michael Hepburn and Cameron Meyer who will make their return to the track having focused on the road in recent season.
"The World Championships are our last qualification event for Rio as well as the final big race opportunity to fine tune our team toward the Rio Olympics," said Kevin Tabotta, Cycling Australia'sNational Performance Director. "We have set objectives for each of the athletes and we will be looking to show strong progression in all our focus disciplines, and importantly, to secure our Rio qualification quotas for all track events. Whilst the World Championships are certainly important, Rio is naturally the ultimate goal. Our eyes are firmly set on August.
"The London velodrome is a super venue, a real cauldron packed with vocal parochial crowds and this will provide the perfect stage to rehearse and refine our strategies in high pressure conditions. That's great practice for Rio."
While there are several significant inclusions in the squad, former world champions Mel Hoskins, Jack Bobridge and Alex Edmondson will miss the Worlds. Hoskins continues to recover from illness although Tabotta does not believe the 24-year-old's Olympic preparation will suffer as a result.
"Melissa's illness is unfortunately timed, but missing the Worlds won't affect her run towards Rio and we expect her to be back, fitter than ever," he said. "It has however opened a door for Georgia Baker to be tested in London and Georgia has pushed her way into the team with some big improvements over the last six months."
Hoskins is the only rider missing from the women's team pursuit that won gold at last year's Worlds
Tabotta added the performances of Bobridge and Edmondson in New Zealand, where the men's team pursuit squad set a new national record, opens the door for selectors to trial other riders before the August games.
"There is a strategy in place which focuses towards Olympic success, and the pair have demonstrated this year, and especially at the New Zealand Track World Cup, that they are clearly on track," he said. "Both riders will benefit with a solid road block of road racing, before they come into our April team pursuit selection camp to secure their spots for Rio."
Hepburn will race his first Worlds since 2013 in Minsk where he won the individual and team pursuit gold medals. Meyer will also return to the Worlds with the endurance squad for the first time since 2012. The Data Dimension rider won six rainbow jerseys on the track between 2009 and 2012. Fellow world champions Glenn O'Shea, Miles Scotson and Luke Davison, along with the Worlds debutants Sam Welsford, Callum Scotson, and Alex Porter complete the endurance roster.
"Our talent goes deep in men's endurance right now, highlighted by the exceptional times set by our youth group in the team pursuit at the Hong Kong World Cup," said Tabotta. "We're going to field a highly competitive team pursuit squad in London with a mix of experience and new talent.
"Sam, Callum and Alex are three exciting inclusions for London and I can assure you that these guys are all serious contenders for team spots in Rio and are eager to show what they can do."
Meares, who won her 36th national title last week at the Australian track championships, leads the women's sprint team with Stephanie Morton and Kaarle McCulloch joining the 11-time track world champion. The men's team consists of Matthew Glaetzer, Jacob Schmid and Nathan Hart.
"We also have a highly experienced women's sprint team, with the big improver being Stephanie Morton in 2016, with her silver medal in Cambridge and recording some of the fastest times of the year in the 200m and in second wheel in the team sprint," Tabotta explained. "And while Anna Meares has had a disrupted run over past six months, she is truly back on track now with an impressive showing at last week's Nationals. She is building well toward August."
Australia won 11 medals, four of those gold, at the 2015 Track World Championships in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, France.
Australia for the London Track World Championships
Patrick Constable (SA)
Matthew Glaetzer (SA)
Nathan Hart (ACT)
Jacob Schmid (VIC)
Kaarle McCulloch (NSW)
Anna Meares (SA/QLD)
Stephanie Morton (SA)
Women's Track Endurance:
Ashlee Ankudinoff (NSW)
Amy Cure (TAS)
Annette Edmondson (SA)
Georgia Baker (TAS)
Rebecca Wiasak (ACT)
Men's Track Endurance:
Luke Davison (SA/NSW)
Michael Hepburn (QLD)
Cameron Meyer (WA)
Glenn O'Shea (SA/VIC)
Alexander Porter (SA)
Callum Scotson (SA)
Miles Scotson (SA)
Samuel Welsford (WA)