First stop Manchester, next stop: Beijing

The Australian team pursuiters

The Australian team pursuiters (Image credit: Mitch Clinton)

By Ben Atkins, UK Editor

The UCI Track Cycling World Championships return to Great Britain's National Cycling Centre for the first time since 2000. This year's championships should proved to be the most competitive for a long time, with just over four months – and no more major events – before August's Olympic Games in Beijing. Host nation Great Britain was the dominant country in Mallorca, Spain last year, and will be hoping to maintain that dominance with a bit of home-track advantage.

While many riders will wish to avoid peaking their form too early, at the expense of possible Olympic medals, the highly psychological game that track racing can be will mean that the favourites will still want to impose themselves over their rivals.

As well as riders from other countries, many riders will also face stiff competition from members of their own national squads, a poor performance here could leave the door open to others and cost them a place in the team come August. For this reason, we should be in for some fascinating competitions.

Sprinting: the kings and queens of speed

On of the most fiercely competitive events should be the Men's Team Sprint. Great Britain was pipped on the line by France at last year's championships by just two-thousandths of a second, and so will be out for revenge. The two finalists form Mallorca won't have it all their own way though as resurgent teams from Australia and Germany will be challenging, and the team from the Netherlands has finally managed to organise itself around the supreme talent of individual champion Theo Bos.

The women's race should be as hotly contested between hosts Great Britain and the Netherlands. The British are the defending champions – with Pendleton and Shanaze Reade – and may feel they have the upper hand after a very close (six-hundredths of a second) victory in the Copenhagen World Cup last month.

Despite bring voted the third most exciting event of the entire Athens games, the Kilometre and 500m time trials have been removed from the Beijing schedule to make way for the BMX events. The result of this is that Olympic and World Champion Chris Hoy (Great Britain) sill not be competing, preferring to concentrate on events that promise glory in August. Hoy won the competition by a country mile (more than eigth-tenths of a second) in Mallorca last year and his absence leaves the competition wide open.

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