News for February 24

Training in Mexico, but Trouble in Atlanta?

Australia's world champion track endurance cycling squad is giving national coach Charlie Walsh cause for concern in the build-up to July's Atlanta Olympics.

Walsh and a group of 13 top Australian men's track cyclists returned home today after just over a month of high-altitude endurance training in Mexico. The Mexican stint was a key early phase in the build-up to Atlanta and, while individuals impressed, Walsh was worried overall.

"From an overall perspective, the track endurance group was not capable of the standard shown at this stage in the past by other groups," Walsh said. He added several riders came down with injuries or illness, with young star Brad McGee the worst affected.

McGee was part of the track endurance squad that won gold at last year's world titles in the 4000m team pursuit. He probably will ride at the Games in the 4000m individual pursuit and, if needed, in the teams' event. But McGee first injured a tendon behind a knee doing what Walsh would only describe as "a specialist form of training". Then, he fell ill and spent about a fortnight altogether away from intense training.

"That's something you can always do without, although Bradley's still young and young people seem to be able to bounce back from these sorts of things fairly quickly," Walsh said.

The main worry for Walsh is he realistically has only six track endurance riders of sufficient standard going for six Olympic spots. He would like more depth to add an element of competition into their training. Apart from McGee, Brett Aitken also lost about a week in Mexico because of illness and the recurrence of a knee injury.

Walsh said youngster Luke Roberts and veteran Dean Woods impressed, while Tim O'Shannessy "will never be at his best at altitude, purely because of his physiology".

The sixth track endurance rider and squad leader, Stuart O'Grady, is in France on a professional contract and Walsh is eagerly awaiting his return to boost the squad closer to the Games.

Walsh was much happier with sprint world champion Darryn Hill and his arch-rival, the wily veteran Gary Neiwand, saying they pushed each other as usual and performed well. Another world champion and world record holder, one kilometre time triallist Shane Kelly, also impressed his coach.

The other five members of the Mexico group were juniors, who went across more as long-term prospects. All 13 will now go to Perth for the February 27-March 3 national track titles. An Olympic squad will be announced on March 3 which is expected to feature all the senior riders from the Mexico trip, plus O'Grady, as its core.

Source: AAP, 22 Feb 96 by Roger Vaughan