| MELBOURNE, April 8
MELBOURNE, April 8 Olympic hosts Britain put
themselves in the driving seat ahead of the London Games after
trumping arch-rivals Australia in the battle for cycling
supremacy at the track world championships.
The British team that reaped only two titles from the
Apeldoorn championships a year ago, claimed six in Melbourne,
including five of the 10 Olympic category events that will be
contested at the London velodrome.
That haul eclipsed Australia's three Olympic category
titles, a telling psychological blow for a proud cycling nation
that scooped six golds in Apeldoorn.
Britain's impressive showing continued the resurgence marked
by their dominant World Cup performance at the Olympic test
event in February and showed their riders peaking at the right
"Everyone knows this is about the Olympics," Team GB's head
coach Shane Sutton told Reuters at the Melbourne velodrome.
"There's all these other events going on but ultimately for
us and UK sport and our partners and our backers it's always
about the Olympics.
"At best, we were looking at round about three (Olympic
titles), I thought initially.
"We're very satisfied going out of here. We know there's a
big job still to do and Australia are right there in the mix.
"But it's who gets it right on the day isn't it?"
Sutton oversaw Team GB's stunning haul of seven track golds
at the 2008 Beijing Games but cycling's global governing body
UCI has virtually ensured there will be no repeat in a
much-criticised shakeup of the Olympic programme.
Only one berth will be available per team in the individual
sprint and keirin events, regardless of riders' international
The Olympic hosts will nonetheless be buoyed by a massive
improvement in their endurance riders, with the men's pursuit
team humbling the formidable Australian lineup and unflappable
teenager Laura Trott adding an omnium title to her women's team
Iron-willed Victoria Pendleton shrugged off a hostile crowd
and a bruising crash to edge her bitter rival Anna Meares in
their thrilling final to notch her sixth sprint title and
install herself as favourite in her last Olympics.
Four-times Olympic champion Chris Hoy brought the curtain
down with a spectacular ride to clinch the keirin title.
"We stepped up big-time in the TP (team pursuit)," Sutton
said. "Vicky stepped up to the plate in the women's sprint so
they were two medals that came as a little bit of a bonus."
Silver medallist Jason Kenny showed he has the speed and
tactical nous to overhaul French champion Gregory Bauge, if not
the discipline, after being relegated in the second round of the
title decider, costing him a final shot at gold.
The only blip for Britain was the continuing misadventures
of the men's sprint team.
Britain won gold in the team sprint at Beijing but have
struggled to find a replacement for the retired Jamie Staff to
slot into the men's sprint team with Kenny and Hoy.
German-born Philip Hindes had a nightmare debut at Melbourne
and almost certainly cost the team a medal when he fell foul of
technical officials for making an illegal changeover between
riders in qualifying.
The mistake led to Britain's disqualification from the
Australia, for their part, have come a long way since
exiting Beijing with red faces and a solitary silver medal.
Their three Olympic category titles in Melbourne would have left
the team disappointed even though the coaching staff tried to
look on the bright side.
"The results that we achieved in terms of medals has been
great, however, the personal bests and the times that have been
hit by the athletes are marks that are exceeding what we had set
for this championship," Cycling Australia performance director
Kevin Tabotta told reporters.
"We're tracking really well. We're pleased with the progress
the athletes have made, we know what we need to work on between
now and London. We know we've got room to move in a number of
the events and we know what we need to do about it."
The team may leave the Melbourne velodrome scratching their
heads, however, given three of their silver medals -- the men's
and women's team pursuit, and the women's team sprint -- were
trumped only by world records.
While Meares shed tears after losing her sprint title to
Pendleton, the Australian showed her quality by streaming to the
keirin title and Glenn O'Shea's victory in the omnium was a
The performance of the women's pursuit team was perhaps most
encouraging, with the combination of Annette Edmondson, Melissa
Hoskins and Josephine Tomic taking silver in only their third
"The Australian women's (pursuit) team by our own internal
ranking in October or November last year in the first World Cup
in Astana was seventh or eighth best in the world," said
"Now they're second best in the world and they're on the way
(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)
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