Olympic and Commonwealth Games Champion, Anna Meares, says she is in the best form since the 2004 Athens Olympic Games where she set the world record to win the gold medal in the 500m time trial, and is backing herself to win at next week's UCI Track Cycling World Cup Classics in Sydney at the Dunc Gray Velodrome.
The 23 year old Queenslander, who will line up in Sydney with 250 cyclists from 32 countries contesting 16 events, overcame a back injury that last year threatened to end her career. Meares came back to win Commonwealth Games time trial gold and sprint silver in Melbourne this year and says her current form is so good it's "scary."
"It's fantastic to have Sydney as the opening round [in past years it has been the final round] because it has drawn in the really big hitters, the riders who are on the top of the ladder," said Meares. "It's an ideal opportunity to measure how I am placed but it's also scary ground because I haven't felt this good for a couple of years so I'm cautious of how I will perform but would love to come away with the 500m gold."
Meares, who took an extended break after her wedding in April, says she has had a solid block of training leading up to next week's event which kicks off her bid for gold in the 2008 Olympics.
"I've settled into married life and the break really helped my back recover fully," she explained. "I hadn't been able to do gym work for 12 months leading into the Commonwealth Games but since I resumed training in June I've done a load of stress and weight tests in the gym and there's been no twinge at all in my back. It makes me feel more confident on the bike knowing that and I'm really looking forward to a full racing program in Sydney next week."
Meares will race the 500m time trial, sprint, keirin and teams sprint (paired with sister Kerrie) in Sydney but the sprint will be of special significance.
"I really want to put my best foot forward in the sprint because with the demise of the time trial from the Olympic program it's the only event for female sprinters and I want to own it by the time I get to Beijing," continued Meares. "But it will also be great to team up with Kerrie in the [two woman] teams sprint that has been reintroduced to international competition."
In the 500m time trial Meares will resume her battle with eight-time World Champion, Natallia Tsylinskaya. Tsylinskaya is the reigning World Champion and comes in as the defending World Cup Champion after winning three of the four rounds in the 2005-2006 series.
"It's pretty cool that I beat her in Melbourne and Athens but I know that fact really fires her up to get the better of me whenever we race," Meares commented on her rival. They'll both face competition from other quarters including Dutch rider Yvonne Hijgenaar, who won the event at the last Sydney World Cup and who finished only one point behind Tsylinskaya in the series rankings. Both she and Meares will have to contend with Commonwealth Games Champion and 2006 World Championships silver medallist Victoria Pendleton from Great Britain.
In the women's endurance events reigning Commonwealth and 2005 World Champion in the individual pursuit, Katie Mactier, will go in as the favourite while dual Commonwealth Games gold medallist Sydney's Kate Bates will be hard to beat in the points and scratch races on her home track.
For more information or tickets visit www.trackworldcup.cycling.org.au or call 02 9738 2505.
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