All set to go in Olympic velodrome

The Olympic track cycling events start today in Athens' controversial velodrome, with Britain hopefu

The Olympic track cycling events start today in Athens’ controversial velodrome, with Britain hopefu

PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Despite the breeze blowing across the Olympic complex, it’s hot and sticky in the Athens velodrome this afternoon, where the first gold medals of the track competition will soon be decided. The crowds have started to pour in and there are plenty of Union Jack flags spread across the seats on what is expected to be an opening sell-out session. More than 180 riders will compete over the next six days, with the final medals being awarded next Wednesday evening. The track schedule starts with the men’s pursuit qualifyijng rounds in which both Bradleys -McGee of Australia and Wiggins of Britain will face up to Segri Escobar of Spain and Germany’s Robert Bartko, gold medallist in Sydney. After the women’s 500-metre time trial, in which Britain’s Vicki Pendleton is an outside hope for a medal, comes the men’s kilo event, in which Britain’s Chris Hoy and Theo Bos of Holland are expected to go head to head, despite Hoy’s fall in the Olympic village last week when trying to overtake a bus. French hopes are pinned on Arnaud Tournant, who could only manage fifth place in the Sydney Olympics, despite having set a record kilo time in Bolivia in 2001. Over the weekend the team pursuit qualifying is sure to be an gripping contest and a tactical one, given the near-outdoor nature of the velodrome. If the open-sided design of the refurbished track has angered the New Zealand and Australian teams, the British camp, keen to gain revenge on Australia for second place in the world championships, is quietly confident that they have what it takes to win gold. Track racing has limited tactics, but it seems likely that in this velodrome those in contention for medals will have to play a good hand of poker when it comes to the choice of equipment for the prestigious team pursuit. Although the British team have now grown accustomed to the blustery conditions, they are yet to finalise their wheel choice for the team event. “We will probably be using a five-spoke front wheel and a rear disc wheel, but we will look at the conditions on the day,” David Brailsford, Team GB’s cycling performance director said. “We will be out there with our wind meters, which we have borrowed from the British sailing team, checking wind speeds. If there’s a prevailing wind it’s not a problem, but if it’s gusty we will have to look at it closely.”