Jason Queally believes England's track cyclists can win a "clutch" of gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, even though the country has not won a gold medal in cycling since Victoria in 1994 when Yvonne McGregor won the women's points race.
"We got medals in Manchester, we just didn't get any golds," said the 35 year-old Chorley-based cyclist. "Australia were going very well that year. But I think we can win at least half a dozen medals on the track this time and I hope we'll get a clutch of golds here as well."
Queally shot to fame two years earlier when he became Olympic 1k time trial champion in Sydney, but he has never won a Commonwealth Games gold medal, despite claiming two silvers in Kuala Lumpur eight years ago and another in Manchester when his British team training partner, friend and rival Chris Hoy beat him to the 1k title by just 0.221 seconds.
Hoy succeeded Queally as Olympic champion in Athens in 2004 and will be cycling for Scotland again in Melbourne, resuming the pair's friendly rivalry when the time trial final takes place on Thursday. The two were training together in Perth for six weeks before arriving in Melbourne so Queally knows better than anyone how tough his task will be.
"Chris is going exceptionally well at the moment," he said. "He'll be the boy to beat in the kilo. I'm not quite where I was last year [when he set a personal best to claim silver at the Los Angeles World Championships], but I'm pretty close.
"At the end of the day we both want gold and will be going to win. But there are others as well so it's not a foregone conclusion that it will be one of us. I just want to go across the line knowing I've used every ounce of energy out of my system - if that only brings me silver, so be it.
"The Olympics are the be all and end all in cycling. They're the pinnacle of what we can achieve and my long-term aim is still Beijing in 2008. But these are not easy medals. This will be a great event and my last championship kilo as they're taking it out of the Olympics. I've got three Commonwealth medals already, but I've never won a gold so if I get one here I will be a happy chappy."
Although Queally made his name in the individual time trial event, he insists he's more of a team player and that winning the team sprint on Sunday is his main aim.
"For me personally, the pressure of an event like this has become less because I've learned to deal with it," he said. "But what's exciting is we've got a good clutch of young riders coming through who'll do the business for us in the future. Since Sydney cycling has snowballed and is now one of our key sports. It's helped us all flourish.
"I am a better rider now than I was in Sydney. After those Games my life changed and it was difficult to cope for a while. But I love it now; I really enjoy what I'm doing."
The cycling programme on day one of the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games gets underway with the men's individual pursuit qualification round at 18.00 Melbourne time, followed by the women's 500m time trial finals at 19.25. The men's 1k time trial finals are scheduled for 19.45, with the final event of the night, the men's individual pursuit finals, at 21.00. Track cycling events are held at the Multi Purpose Venue.
Also see: An interview with Chris Hoy.
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