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Track World Cup 08-09 Round 4 - CDM

Beijing, China, January 16-18, 2009

Laoshan velodrome hosts returning Olympians

By Laura Weislo

Riders test out the Laoshan Velodrome at the last Beijing World Cup
Photo ©: AFP
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The fourth round of the UCI Track Cycling World cup heads back to the Laoshan velodrome in Beijing: the site of triumph for the British team and a few others this past summer at the Olympic Games.

But the make-up of the field and the atmosphere surrounding the track have done a huge turnabout from the smoggy, humid, oppressive conditions of August. Sub-zero temperatures have replaced sweltering summer days, and riders taking to the track during the pre-race training sessions have found the building to be quite a bit cooler than normal.

The level of competition will not be quite what it was this past summer as many of the gold medallists are still building their fitness after a break and will choose to skip the Beijing event.

For riders heading to China from the warmth of the Southern Hemisphere, the change in temperature was startling. "I knew it would be cold but was not really prepared for the minus 11 temperature that greeted us," said Malaysian Josiah Ng, who is based in Melbourne, Australia. "Luckily we're racing indoors, but I hear that even in the track it's not that warm, about 16 degrees. Hopefully they will turn up the heat come race day."

New Zealand's national track coach Tim Carswell indicated that the times would be well below the record-setting levels of the Olympics last month.

"For the Olympians, this is their first competition since Beijing. We are nine weeks out from the world championships so this signals the start of the final build-up to the worlds. For instance, if the men's pursuit is within two or three seconds of their Beijing time, I will be happy," said Carswell. "To go under four minutes is probably asking too much in these conditions."

But conditions are the same for everyone at the track, and competition is expected to be stronger as the opportunities for qualifying spots for Poland wind down. With just one World Cup after Beijing in Copenhagen, Denmark next month, time is running out to gather those all important UCI points.

The post-Olympic World Cup competition has been light since Manchester, where Great Britain accumulated the lion's share of the points which keep them at third in the country rankings. Their light participation in Melbourne and Cali allowed more consistent nations Germany and Spain to climb into first and second, respectively.

Kluge took silver at the Games.
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Silver medallist in the points race, Roger Kluge, will be back in Beijing and looking to keep his country on top. But he'll have to face the return of British points racer Chris Newton who last year won the World Cup in that discipline. Newton will be in China along with Rob Hayles, Peter Kennaugh, Mark Christian and Luke Rowe for Team Great Britain.

For the men with the tree-trunk legs, the team sprint competition is looking to be the event of the weekend. France is sending two top squads from Cofidis: François Pervis, Mickaël Bourgain and Kevin Sireau, and the national team: Thierry Jollet, Grégory Baugé and Michael d'Almeida. Sprint legend Arnaud Tournant now leads the Cofidis team after his retirement from competition.

The Australian Team Toshiba currently leads the team sprint standings ahead of Germany and Cofidis, who hasn't yet sent its A-team to a World Cup.

On the women's side, China's Jinjie Gong will be the star of her home town event as she tries to defend her leads in the overall women's 500m time trial and Keirin competition. Lulu Zheng is sitting in second overall in the sprints, and will try to get over Lyubov Shulika of Ukraine.

The Kiwis will be bringing along Alison Shanks, who took fourth place in the Olympics in the individual pursuit in hopes of scoring gold this week, and Catherine Cheatley.

With Worlds still over two months away, the top names may be steering clear of the jet lag and frigid temperatures which many of the riders will be experiencing in Beijing, but as the racing gets into full swing, the competition will heat things up, and, like in Cali and Melbourne, we should be seeing some fresh faces atop the podiums.