Melbourne. Triple Olympic champion Chris Hoy will offer a sneak preview of one of the most anticipated events at London 2012 when he leads a full-strength British team at the track cycling World Championships.
Hoy is hoping to defend his team sprint, individual sprint and keirin gold medals in London and will race all three events at the worlds, which start today and also serve as Olympic qualifiers.
Hoy leads a British squad that dominated the final round of the Track World Cup in London last month. The team includes Olympic and eight-time world champion Victoria Pendleton and fellow Olympic champions Jason Kenny, Ed Clancy and Geraint Thomas.
Changes to the Olympic qualification mean each nation can only have one representative in the sprint events, which could make competition for medals at the world championships tougher than at the London Games.
“Performance here is crucial as final selection for Britain’s one sprint spot at the games may ride on what occurs Down Under,” Hoy said. “I’ve done pretty well this year so far, and if I can have another good performance [in Melbourne] then hopefully it will be enough for selection.”
After topping the medal tally at last year’s world championships in the Netherlands, host Australia is expected to provide the British team with some strong competition at Hisense Arena.
Led by reigning sprint, keirin and team sprint world champion Anna Meares, the Australian team features men’s keirin world champion Shane Perkins and a men’s endurance squad that includes individual pursuit champion Jack Bobridge, Cameron Meyer and Leigh Howard.
Jack Bobridge leads Australia’s world champion team pursuit squad, which is expected to fight out the gold medal against Britain.
Despite the Australia versus Britain hype, Bobridge said there are other teams threatening at the championship.
“I don’t think the British are our only competition at the moment; you have the Russians and New Zealand,” he said. “We get excited every time we win and it’s not just about beating the British, it’s about beating everyone.”
Russia has been weakened by the loss of Ivan Kovalev, who was hit by a car in training at Sydney last week.
Australia’s Perkins was luckier, escaping with a sprained wrist and bruises after colliding with a car during training on Sunday.
In the women’s competition, a hot rivalry will be played out between the world’s two top women sprinters.
Pendleton beat Meares to sprint gold at the 2008 Olympics, seven months after the Australian rider injured her neck in a track accident.
Meares broke Pendleton’s four-year run of world titles last year and then toppled her again in a titanic contest at the World Cup meeting in London.