Twelve years after the Melbourne Commonwealth Games, the quadrennial event returns to Australia with a full programme of cycling events. The early-April date clash with the classics has resulted in a number of high-profile riders skipping the Games but there is depth across the three disciplines to be contested on the Gold Coast.
The track is first on the cycling programme at the Commonwealth Games with the Anna Meares Velodrome to host four days of action from 5-9 April. There will be four gold medals decided on each day of racing with the team sprint and team pursuit the marquee events of day 1.
The time trials at Currumbin Beach are next on the agenda, 10 April, followed by the cross country at Nerang two days later. The men and women's road races on 14 April close out the cycling programme
Road races – 14 April
The men's 163.8 kilometre road race will start and finish at Currumbin Beach with the peloton to complete nine laps of the 18.2-kilometre course. The women's race takes place on the same course but with the shorter distance of 112.2 kilometres and will take place at the early time of 7:45 am ahead of the men.
Both events are expected to suit a bunch sprint finish. However, in 2006 Mat Hayman foiled the sprint with a last lap solo attack to take the gold medal and a surprise could again be on the cards.
In the men's field, the Australian team will start as heavy favourites despite a number of big name riders skipping the trip down under. In February, fastman Steele von Hoff broke four vertebrae in a racing crash but has recovered from the injury and lines out in the green and gold as the quickest finisher. Hayman is also selected for the race but will be the road captain. Von Hoff, Alex Edmondson and Cameron Meyer are the likely candidates for the gold medal in the green and gold
Adam Blythe leads team England will be a favourite for gold in a bunch sprint finish. New Zealand with Shane Archbold and Sam Gaze could spring a surprise while a number of smaller cycling nations will be looking to television representation via the break and perhaps an upset win in a sprint finish.
In the women's race, Australian national champion Shannon Malseed and Chloe Hosking lead a strong and versatile squad heavily favoured for the win. Katrin Garfoot, Sarah Roy, Gracie Elvin and Tiff Cromwell adding depth and alternative avenues to victory.
The challenge to the home nation is likely to come from New Zealand duo Linda Villumsen and Georgia Williams, Eileen Roe of Scotland and Dani King of team Wales.
In the men's 37.8-kilometre time trial, an out and back that starts and finishes at Currumbin, it is an open field that will be chasing the gold medal. Dual Olympic rowing gold medallist Hamish Bond of New Zealand has won the national and Oceania title this year and starts as a genuine medal contender. Callum Scotson will be chasing gold for Australia while England's chances will come via Harry Tanfield and Ian Bibby.
In the women's race against the clock, Garfoot is aiming for gold on her home roads. Villumsen though will be keen to defend her title from Glasgow where Garfoot took bronze.
Track – 5-9 April
Australia has set the ambitious goal of winning eight gold medals at the Commonwealth Games with the majority to come on the track. Four years ago, the tally was seven gold medals with all coming via the velodrome.
In the team pursuit, the men will start as favourites to defend their gold medal from Glasgow. The event makes its debut for the women with the Australian team also highly favoured but will face competition from strong Canada and England squads.
In the individual endurance events, Cameron Meyer, Annette Edmondson, Rebecca Wiasak, Amy Cure, Jordan Kerby, and Sam Welsford lead the line as home gold medal prospects. International names to watch include Charles Tanfield (England), Oli Wood (England), Jon Mould (Wales), Allison Beveridge (Canada), Katie Archibald (Scotland), and Elinor Barker (Wales).
In the sprint events, Matt Glaetzer and Stephanie Morton headline the Australian team after their strong performances at Worlds. A strong Kiwi contingent of Eddie Dawkins, Ethan Mitchell and Sam Webster, Philip Hindes (England), Mohd Azizulhasni Awang (Malaysia), and Jack Carlin (Scotland) all expected to challenge in the men's field. The medal contenders in the women's events alongside Morton include Kaarle McCulloch (Australia), Katy Marchant (England).
Cross-Country – 12 April
Daniel McConnell, the bronze medallist from Glasgow, is Australia's sole entry in the men's cross-country. Defending champion Anton Cooper and two-time U23 world champion Sam Gaze lead the New Zealand team and will be heavy favourites for another one-two finish. Crocodile trophy winner Leandre Bouchard (Canada) and Grant Ferguson of Scotland though will be aiming for an upset.
Defending champion Catharine Pendrel is missing from the 13-rider women's start list but in Emily Batty, Canada is well represented in its chase of a successive gold medal. Rebecca McConnell (Australia), Evie Richards and Annie Last (England), and Samara Sheppard (New Zealand) will be out to stop Batty.
Cyclingnews will have full race coverage of the Commonwealth Games from the Gold Coast.
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