The 2011 UCI Track World Championships get underway on March 23 at the Omnisport Apeldoorn in the Netherlands with a heavy five-day schedule which encompasses all of the sport's events, including those not on the Olympic programme for 2012.
As nations from around the globe gear up for the London Olympic Games next year, there will be plenty of attention paid to the opening event of this year's championships, the men's team pursuit. With Great Britain lacking Olympians Geraint Thomas and Bradley Wiggins due to conflicts with the road season, the British will have their work cut out to defeat their rivals from Australia.
The event is not only the world championship, but also important toward qualifying places in the London 2012 Games.
Opening day also sees the finals of the men's team sprint, where World Cup winners France have dominated all season leaving Great Britain's team, led by Sir Chris Hoy, to do some catching up.
The men also contest the scratch race on day 1, while the 500m time trial and points race serve to kick off proceedings for the women.
Team pursuit and sprint events for the women follow on the next day, where World Cup winners New Zealand will likely battle fellow Anglophones Australia and Great Britain for the gold in the pursuit, while China, Australia, Great Britain and France are top contenders on the sprint.
World record holder Jack Bobridge will step into the spotlight to fight for the men's individual pursuit on day 2. In the absence of last year's champion Taylor Phinney (USA), the main competition should come from Jesse Sergent (New Zealand). The sprinters also get underway with qualifying rounds on day 2.
Three-time world champion Sarah Hammer will defend her crown and world record in the women's individual pursuit on Friday, pitting herself against Alison Shanks (New Zealand) and Wendy Houvenaghel (Great Britain), while the female sprinters begin their competition. Victoria Pendleton will seek her sixth crown in the event, but faces increasingly strong competition from China's Shuang Guo and Australian Anna Meares.
The men's omnium also gets underway on Friday, and the finals of the men's points race will see Australian Cameron Meyer try for a third consecutive title in the event. The big men will vie for the gold in the sprint final, where World Cup winner and flying lap world record holder Kevin Sireau (France) will look to finally win his first individual sprint title.
Racing heats up on Saturday with the men's omnium finishing up as the women begin their five-race series. American Sarah Hammer is the odds-on favourite for the gold in the event, but with strong endurance riders like Kirsten Wild (Netherlands) and Canadian Tara Whitten and the randomness of two mass-start events in the mix, anything can happen.
The busy weekend schedule also sees the women's sprint heats and scratch race on Saturday, as well as the men's keirin.
On Sunday, racing wraps up with the conclusion of the women's omnium, the men's kilometre and the men's Madison, where Australians Leigh Howard and Cameron Meyer will seek to defend their title.
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