By Daniel Benson
Olympic track hero Jamie Staff will lead the Great Britain team at the World Track Championships in Pruszkow, Poland, this week. The 35-year-old will be one of the team's most experienced riders, and will join fellow Olympians Ed Clancy, Steven Burke, Jason Kenny and Victoria Pendleton. However the team will be without three of its Olympic champions - Bradley Wiggins, Sir Chris Hoy and Rebecca Romero.
"This is an experimental year in many regards, with a mix of experience and youth," Staff told Cyclingnews on the eve of the Championships. "David Brailsford (British Cycling's Performance Director) has told us to go out there to enjoy and learn, so that's certainly helping take some of the pressure off the less experienced members of the team. Overall the mood in the camp is really good and everyone is relaxed."
Great Britain have dominated the last two Championships, in Majorca and Manchester, and won a total of seven Olympic gold medals in last year's Beijing Olympics, meaning they'll be many people's favourites to take home a flurry of gold medals once again. However with several members of the Olympic team missing and the team firmly focusing on the London Olympics in 2012, expectations have been lowered somewhat.
"Our preparation hasn't been as smooth as it was for the Olympics. We tapered for Beijing but this attempt has been a bit rushed. The positive is that we've all kept our form since the Olympics. I'm not recovering as well as last year and I'm not doing the same training volume but my top end speed is still there, and in my event that's what counts." said Staff.
With Sir Chris Hoy unable to compete after a crash in the last round of the World Cup in Copenhagen, Britain's male sprint team went through a round of trials earlier this month with the final roster decided with Staff, Jason Kenny and Matt Crampton. It will be Crampton's first time at a World Championships, and he will take Hoy's spot as third man.
Staff is confident that Crampton will be up to the task, but knows the team will have to be perfect in order to win. "The French team will be our biggest challengers. They won the event last year in Manchester and riders like Gregory Bauge have been doing a lot of sprinting over the last few months."
However Staff won't just be racing at the Championships. The former BMX racer will be commentating on the proceedings once he's finished on the track. "I did some commentary at the World Cup in Manchester for the BBC and I'll be working for Eurosport in Poland this time around. It's really hard and you have to do a lot of preparation, a bit like track racing."
Full British Squad:
Men: Matthew Crampton, David Daniell, Ross Edgar, Jason Kenny, Jamie Staff, Jonathan Bellis, Steven Burke, Mark Cavendish, Ed Clancy, Peter Kennaugh, Chris Newton
Women: Anna Blyth, Victoria Pendleton, Shanaze Reade, Jess Varnish, Lizzie Armistead, Katie Colclough, Wendy Houvenaghel, Joanna Rowsell