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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Track World Cup 08-09 Round 2 - CDM

Melbourne, Australia, November 20-22, 2008

Track stars: The next generation

By Laura Weislo

Lizzy Armistead (center) and Katie Colclough (right) will be in Melbourne
Photo ©: Gerry McManus
(Click for larger image)

In this post-Olympic year, the first World Cups of the season are providing a marvelous display of emerging young talent, and like the first round in Manchester, the three days of racing in Melbourne's Hisense Arena will feature a huge crop of new faces. In fact, of the 171 riders on the start list, just a dozen are over 30, and 100 are under 23!

The biggest buzz for the Australian hosts ahead of the event is the performance of 21-year-old Jack Bobridge, who set a time which would have been good enough for a silver medal in the Olympic Games in the Oceania Championships individual pursuit last week. He should be a shoo-in for a gold medal since none of the British pursuiters are making the trip down under.

The Australian track programme took a big hit this summer in Beijing, where its veterans took home just one medal – but riders like Bobridge, junior world champion Josie Tomic, Leigh Howard, Glenn O'Shea and Kaarle McCulloch have shown some real promise and should challenge for the golds this week.

Speaking of the British, not a single British man is on the start list for Melbourne, but the three-woman wrecking crew from Manchester will be on hand to try and destroy the competition again. Between them, Lizzy Armistead, Katie Colclough and Joanna Roswell took home gold in every endurance event except the individual pursuit, where Olympian Wendy Houvenaghel took top honours. Australians Tomic, Ashlee Ankudinoff and Sarah Kent put in a strong team pursuit at the Oceania championships, however, and should push the British trio to be on top of their game.

Absent will be the British sprint crew, men and women, which should open up the floor for other countries to step forward into the spotlight. François Pervis (Cofidis) was the only foreigner to beat the Brits in the sprint events in Manchester, and will look to gain valuable World Cup points in the sprint and pad out his lead in the Keirin standings. Fellow Frenchman Michaël d'Almeida will look to regain his place atop the kilometre standings.

Aussie Shane Perkins
Photo ©: Gerry McManus
(Click for larger image)

The men's sprint looks to be another chance for the Aussies to shine, and 22-year-old Shane Perkins, who took second to Jason Kenny in Manchester, will be free of his British nemesis. But watch out for 21-year-old Malaysian Azizul Hasni Awang, the three-time Asian keirin champion who put in a strong performance in Beijing.

On the women's side, the Dutch should have an edge with the absence of Victoria Pendleton. Willy Kanis, winner of the sprint in Sydney last year and Yvonne Hijgenaar paired up to win three of the four World Cup rounds last season and should have little trouble taking gold in Melbourne. Kanis will be a real threat in the Keirin as well, but will get a challenge from riders like Kiwi Natasha Hansen, who won the recent Oceania championships.

While the majority of the participants in this World Cup come from the time zones east of Europe, there are a few opportunists who will circumnavigate the globe in search of UCI points. Shelly Olds and her Proman teammate Cari Higgins, Becky Quinn and Teresa Cliff-Ryan are the only Americans who will take the long flight to Australia.

In the men's pursuit events, the top three teams in Manchester will all stay home, so the tide shifts in favour of the home teams. New Zealand and Australia will be chased by the Ukrainian and Russian squads.

That said, with such a large batch of young talent it's safe to say that we'll see some big surprises in Melbourne, and we should start to see a glimpse of the 2012 Olympic contenders emerging.