Record numbers descend on Sydney for World Cup round one

The 2007-2008 UCI Track Cycling World Cup gets underway on November 30 at Sydney's Dunc Gray velodrome, where a record number of entrants will pursue all important points toward Olympic qualification. Of the 395 riders entered in the event, there are 15 reigning World Champions - all of last year's winner except for two from the British team pursuit squad: Geraint Thomas and Paul Manning, the Madison champions Bruno Risi and Franco Marvulli, who are in the midst of the lucrative Six Day season in Europe, and British women's team sprint champion Shanaze Reade.

Among the World Champions lining up in Sydney are two Australians: Anna Meares, who set a new world record on her way to victory in the 500m time trial, and Katherine Bates. Also racing in Sydney will be American Sarah Hammer (women's pursuit), Dutchman Theo Bos (men's sprint), Great Britain's Chris Hoy (men's keirin and kilometer time trial) and Victoria Pendleton (women's sprint, team sprint and keirin), Bradley Wiggins, (men's pursuit, team pursuit), Korean Kam Po Wong (men's scratch), the first men's omnium champion, Czech Alois Kankovsky as well as the French team sprint champions, British pursuit team, Points race champion Juan Llaneras and Cuban scratch race winner Yumari Gonzalez Valdivieso.

With a new qualification system for the 2008 Olympics which gives automatic selection to individual World Cup winners as well as World Champions, each World Cup has become an individual battle to make the Games in Beijing. Whereas in previous years each National Olympic Committee would select athletes to fill up its spots, the new rules will see 21 riders gain automatic qualification through the UCI events, with the remaining 144 places distributed to the national committees according to the individual track rankings after the UCI World Championships in March.

The Sydney event will also see a record number of track teams racing alongside the national teams. The number of teams has grown steadily since their introduction in 2004, and this year 28 teams will contest the Sydney World Cup as well as teams from 48 nations - also a record.

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