Just as Australia was forced to begin a new era for its track team following the Beijing Olympic Games, after finishing 12th on the medal table with one silver – a comparative shock after Athens 2004 where the nation finished first with 10 medals, including six gold – national High Performance director Kevin Tabotta has warned that it’s a cycle that will begin again after London.
At the very centre of this transition, is the men’s team pursuit squad, consisting of Jack Bobridge, Michael Hepburn, Rohan Dennis and Glenn O’Shea, which finished second to Great Britain at the 2012 UCI Track World Championships in Melbourne. Road commitments in the case of Bobridge and Hepburn with trade team GreenEdge will mean that track ambitions will need to take a back seat.
“We’re already thinking along those lines and developing talent to take us through to Rio  because track endurance now, for a young athlete who’s got a road career, you’re probably looking at a two-to-four year, maybe a four year span for a lot of guys now that are any good on the road,” Tabotta explained.
Australia is the defending champion in the men’s team pursuit from the 2011 junior worlds in Russia where Jack Cummings, Alex Edmondson, Jackson Law and Alex Morgan claimed gold over Russia. Alex Edmondson has already shown he is in the mix at the senior level as the man who missed out at the very last hurdle on selection for the team in Melbourne.
“All we’ve done is put a lot more work, more resources, more people, more income to get more people around athletes to do better development,” Tabotta said of the turnaround over the last four years. “It’s not brain surgery. We’ve just worked really hard in a system to support our young talent towards the London objective.”
Question marks over Meyer
If there is a talking point over the Australian men’s endurance group, it’s where Cameron Meyer fits in calculations for the team pursuit in London?
Speaking to Cyclingnews late last year, Meyer cited the timing of events at the world championships, as reason for his then-likely shortened race program.
"It's very tight, the team pursuit is on the first day, the omnium on the second and third the points race on the fourth and the madison on the fifth,” he explained. “It's like, I can't ride for the five days.”
Meyer settled on the points race and the madison for Melbourne, with it highly unlikely that he’ll ever contest the events at world championship level again. He indicated after his win in the points race, for his third world title on Saturday, that he would discuss his options for London with team management after the championships, and this was confirmed by Tabotta.
Despite persistent speculation, Tabotta hosed down speculation that Meyer was discouraged from riding at the championships altogether, with team management preferring him to concentrate his energies on London.
“We were never trying to convince Cameron Meyer never to race here,” he stated. “Cameron Meyer’s great for track cycling and he’s great for Australian track cycling. We were really enthused by Cameron’s decision to come here. He set his objectives six months ago about coming here to win two world titles, he made it very clear, in the madison and in the points and we are ecstatic that he’s come in good condition.”
Meyer has not ridden in the team pursuit since the world titles in 2010, where he combined with Bobridge, Dennis and Hepburn for the rainbow jersey. While there was not a lot wrong with the quartet which rode to a silver medal on the opening day of the 2012 championships, given they broke the world record in qualifying, the consideration is that O’Shea could be allowed to concentrate his energies on the omnium alone.
“We’ve got room to move,” Tabotta explained of the fight against Team GB. “There’s only one more place to go isn’t there? We’re going to be competing for the top of the podium the same way that New Zealand will, Great Britain will and Russia will, I’m sure. They’re your top four runners in the men’s team pursuit and it will be who’s the best on those two days in August and we’ll be right there, I can tell you.”
The obvious transition among Australia’s women is the expected retirement of sprint ace Anna Meares who has indicated that she is likely to step away from the sport, without fully closing the door entirely.
Sprint stocks are scarce for Australia at the moment, with Kaarle McCulloch Meares’ natural successor gaining in strength every track season.
The women’s endurance squad - Ashlee Ankudinoff, Amy Cure, Annette Edmondson, Melissa Hoskins - seems settled however without the demands from road programs of their male counterparts.
As a sports journalist and producer since 1997, Jane has covered Olympic and Commonwealth Games, rugby league, motorsport, cricket, surfing, triathlon, rugby union, and golf for print, radio, television and online. However her enduring passion has been cycling.
Jane is a former Australian Editor of Cyclingnews from 2011 to 2013 and continues to freelance within the cycling industry.
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