Australia will name its team for the upcoming UCI Track World Championships in Melbourne next Wednesday with Cycling Australia's High Performance Director Kevin Tabotta saying that the nation is in a "really positive" position with both rainbow jerseys and Olympic medals on the line in the months ahead.
Australia topped the tally with eight gold, two silvers and one bronze medal at the 2011 worlds in Apeldoorn, providing plenty to live up to with six of the nation's gold medals coming from Olympic events.
Tabotta, speaking from Adelaide where the bulk of the world championship squad will be based for a team camp from Monday onwards, said that while most of the positions had been finalised, there are some spots still up for grabs before Wednesday's announcement.
"Every time we go and pick a team for the world championships it's never 100 per cent clear cut," he said. "We do have a couple of decisions to make before Wednesday next week but I'll also say that the core of the team that we'll be looking at for the World Championships will logically be based around what we had at the world cup in London along with a couple of additions."
The Cyclones came away from the London World Cup event last month with two gold medals (Melissa Hoskins - scratch race, Jack Bobridge, Rohan Dennis, Michael Hepburn, Alex Edmondson - team pursuit), three silver medals (Anna Meares, Kaarle McCulloch - team sprint, Anna Meares - sprint, Annette Edmondson - omnium) and two bronze medals (Josie Tomic, Amy Cure and Annette Edmondson - team pursuit, Amy Cure - individual pursuit).
Endurance squad evolving
Key performances in London came from the endurance squads with Alex Edmondson stepping to the team pursuit squad and effectively oust Luke Durbridge from a rainbow jersey-winning outfit. According to Tabotta, with Edmondson's performance it's now up to him to show consistency in order to cement his position for the five-man team that will make up the endurance squad in August at the Olympic Games.
"At the end of the day if you keep getting those sorts of results - if you're someone like Jack Bobridge, [Michael] Hepburn, and [Rohan] Dennis who are continually putting themselves on the chopping block and continually delivering then you would think that their chances of re-making a team are logically higher," Tabotta explained.
"For someone like Alex Edmondson, he's started that process. For us it's about trying to determine whether Alex will continue to deliver so that's his challenge right now. He's stepped up. Everything that we've put in front of him, he's stepped up and said I can do this."
The first point on the Australian team's Olympic selection charter is whether an athlete is considered to be a genuine medal chance in their chosen event, a key factor which is being given serious thought in regards to the men's omnium competition, where Australia is the reigning world title holder through Michael Freiberg. Further investigation and consideration is needed in the event, with athletes being put under the microscope in Melbourne next month, despite Glenn O'Shea being a standout performer in recent months. The deciding factor will be the team pursuit where the omnium rider will need to be able to slot in.
"I'm not talking out of school when I say we're a pretty good chance for a medal in the Olympic Games," Tabotta explained. "About how we manage the personnel in dealing with that will depend on where we sit omnium-wise as well. Our priority right now is the men's team pursuit in the men's endurance area heading into the Olympic Games."
When it comes to the women's team pursuit, the line-up of Tomic, Cure and Edmondson made a considerable improvement from previous world cup efforts and showed that their fourth placing from the 2011 World Championships in Apeldoorn can certainly be improved on. A year ago just over one second separated Australia and the winning time of Great Britain. That team two has been undergoing change with both Kate Bates and Sarah Kent bowing out of the squad in recent months. The trio set a new world mark in their bronze medal ride-off in London, only for the time to be bettered by Great Britain when they won gold. Tabotta believes that while the girls walked away with a medal, the most important outcome was the boost their confidence received.
"They have been working very hard over the last 12 months and in the preceeding world cups, the results hadn't been coming out the other end," he said. "We didn't talk about medals we talked about times and we talked about being world class. The thing that we focus on was what they were in control of and what they could deliver. They're on track to do good things."
Sprinters set to be tested
The performance in London by Australia's darling of the track, Anna Meares, who contested the team sprint, keirin and individual sprint against a very closely-matched field was of particular interest. Meares set a new world record with team sprint partner Kaarle McCulloch only to have it bettered by Great Britain's Victoria Pendleton and Jess Varnish. In the individual sprint, Meares set a new personal best and Australian record of 10.939 seconds in qualifying en route to her second silver medal. Meares then followed with 6th place in the keirin. Asked if Meares' workload was any cause for concern, Tabotta replied in the negative.
"When Anna Meares needs to step up in the biggest competitions, fatigued or fresh, she will step up," he said. "We're really pleased with what Anna did at London. She recorded two of the best times she's ever done in that competition and that's reflective of what she's doing here in training. She's right on track."
The next few months for the sprinters among the team is indeed a two-step program with an athlete's longevity less of a concern in Olympic competition than it is during a world championships.
Regardless of the extra prize that could await some of the athletes, Tabotta urged that the home world championships next month needed to be seen in three different lights - "An opportunity as a stepping stone, also as a confidence builder with a worlds jersey a prize in its own right."
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