By Gerry McManus
Host nation Great Britain announced its team for the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Manchester on March 26-30. It will be the third time the championships have been held at the recently re-laid velodrome. Most recently, the worlds were in Manchester in 1996 and 2000.
"This team is an exciting mix of experienced World Champions and talented young riders who are breaking through," said Dave Brailsford, Performance Director of Great Britain's Cycling Team. "It will be a special championship for everyone in the team: not only is it the last major event before the Beijing Olympics; it is also taking place on our home track in Manchester, where we will be able to count great crowd support."
The team will be there to defend the seven world crowns it won in Palma last year thanks to Victoria Pendleton taking three (sprint, keirin and team sprint) and Chris Hoy (keirin and kilo) and Bradley Wiggins (team pursuit and individual pursuit) two apiece. All three make up the core of the 2008 worlds team which will also feature a number of riders under the age of 20.
Pendleton was named to the women's sprint squad that will compete for four gold medals in the five-day event. Shanaze Reade is expected to partner with her in the women's team sprint.
After much speculation the men's sprint squad was announced as Chris Hoy, Jamie Staff, Matt Crampton, Jason Kenny and Ross Edgar. The trio who will race the Olympic Sprint event has not yet been announced. Craig MacLean and Jason Queally are the two key names left out of the squad, but both are still expected to be in contention for places for the Olympic team later in the year.
Scotland's MacLean took himself out of consideration for the worlds squad after pelvic injury problems have complicated his season thus far. The 36 year-old told the Guardian, "I missed a lot of training and I've been playing catch-up ever since. It's like the other guys had a head start on me and I could never get them back. I'm optimistic I can go to Beijing. But I've not been at my best and I felt it was best for me to pull out of the World Championships. I made the decision at the weekend and I feel much happier - it's taken a weight off my shoulders.''
Wendy Houvenaghel, Rebecca Romero, Jo Rowsell and Lizzie Armistead will be in contention for places in the three rider women's team pursuit race which debuts as a World Championship event in Manchester. A new world record is expected to be set in this event.
Steve Burke received his first Senior World Championships call up and could be included for the men's team pursuit. The talented youngster debuted for the British senior team in Copenhagen last month. Burke's team recorded the fastest time of the year when they won the final of the World Cup competition. The British team could go even faster if Bradley Wiggins can continue to adapt his road legs over to the track as he has successfully done many times before.
Team High Road professional Mark Cavendish will return home and could have his name down to ride in the men's Madison. Rob Hayles, Gerraint Thomas or Ed Clancy are capable of partnering Cavendish in the high-speed race.
Two surprise names on the list are young sprinters David Daniell and Jessica Varnish. Daniell has won five gold medals in the last two years in the Junior World and European track championships. Varnish is part of British Cycling's Olympic development programme and was second in the women's sprint in last year's Junior World Championships in Mexico.
Great Britain's Team for UCI Track Cycling World Championships: Lizzie Armitstead, Anna Blyth, Steve Burke, Mark Cavendish, Ed Clancy, Matt Crampton, Kate Cullen, Steve Cummings, David Daniell, Ross Edgar, Rob Hayles, Wendy Houvenaghel, Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny, Paul Manning, Vicky Pendleton, Shanaze Reade, Rebecca Romero, Jo Rowsell, Jamie Staff, Geraint Thomas, Jessica Varnish, Bradley Wiggins.
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