After the glamour and prestige of this summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing, the world’s top track riders return to the day-to-day business of the World Cup this weekend.
Round one of the 2008/9 UCI Track Cycling World Cup began today in Manchester, England.
It’s hard to see the Great Britain team enjoying the same domination it enjoyed in Beijing – or indeed at the World Championships in March – but the home crowd will be 100 percent behind the riders and will expect to be rewarded.
The notable absentee from the home team is three-time Beijing Olympic champion Chris Hoy. The rest of the Great Britain sprinters will be battling to fill the big Scot’s shoes though, and Jason Kenny and Ross Edgar – silver medallists behind Hoy in the sprint and Keirin respectively – will fly the flag in his absence.
They will miss the competition of the top French sprinters, who will make a later debut to the World Cups. Also missing is women’s individual pursuit champion Rebecca Romero, but silver medallist Wendy Houvenaghel will be there in her place.
Double Olympian Bradley Wiggins would be the overwhelming favourite for both pursuits, but did not start today’s individual pursuit. His national team is now missing the retired Paul Manning for the team pursuit, and Wiggins will likely be breaking in a new rider there. He will have a different partner if he rides the Madison, though, as his partner in World Championship victory and Olympic defeat, Mark Cavendish, has committed his future to the road.
Other world champions present include Teun Mulder of the Netherlands, keen to show his rainbow jersey in the non-Olympic event. Points race world champion Aliaksandr Lisouski of Belarus returns to Manchester, but his countryman – and Tinkoff team-mate – Vasili Kiryienka does not.
With many riders resting after a long season – many of them on the road as well as the track – and some retiring after the Olympic Games, there are a few notable names missing from start list. Gone is ever popular French sprinter Arnaud Tournant and Olympic points champion Joan Llaneras, both of whom hung up their wheels this August. Beijing Madison champion Walter Fernando Perez is present, but with a different partner in the form of Sebastian Donadio.
The women enjoy far more events than their pitiful three at the Olympics and Victoria Pendleton of Team Sky+ HD will be out to impress more than the once she was allowed in Beijing. She will be unable to defend her world team sprint title, though, as she does not have a partner in the team in the absence of Shanaze Reade.
World and Olympic points champion Marianne Vos is one of those on the absent list, but this leaves space for plenty of others to shine.