The fourth and final round of the 2011–12 UCI Track Cycling World Cup,presented by Samsung, which begins in London today, will bring the best track riders from around the world to the brand new Velodrome, purpose built for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
The event – part of the London Prepares series, the official London 2012 sports testing programme – will be the first sporting event ever to be staged in the Velodrome on the Olympic Park and will be the first opportunity for many elite athletes to race on the new track.
The first three World Cup events of the 2011-2012 season took place in Astana in Kazakhstan (Nov 2011), Cali in Colombia (Dec 2011), and Beijing in China (Jan 2012). The final event takes place in London, and is followed in April by the 2012 UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Melbourne, Australia.
The World Cups and World Championships offer ranking points which count towards Olympic qualification so the UCI Track Cycling World Cup presented by Samsung in London will allow athletes to gain invaluable ranking points in helping their nation qualify for the 2012 Games.
The event will be extensively covered on television so who should we look out for as likely champions when the Olympic Games take place here in the Velodrome later in the Summer?
Gregory BAUGE (FRA) – Six-time World Champion (two Sprint gold medals and four Team Sprint gold medals) between 2006 and 2010. He also won the Sprint and Team Sprint medals at the 2011 World Championships but was stripped of the titles in January 2012 as part of a back-dated, one-year suspension from the French Cycling Federation for failure to convey whereabouts information for the French anti-doping agency. BAUGE also won a silver medal in the Team Sprint at the Beijing Games.
Ed CLANCY (GBR) – Gold medallist in the Team Pursuit at the Beijing 2008 Games and four-time world champion (three Team Pursuit and one Omnium) from 2005 to 2010.
Chris HOY (GBR) – Four time Olympic Champion – 1km Time Trial at the Athens 2004 Games and Team Sprint, Keirin and Sprint at the 2008 Beijing Games – and silver medallist in the Team Sprint at the Sydney 2000 Games. HOY has won 23 world championship medals between 1999 and 2011, including ten gold medals
Stefan NIMKE (GER) – Medallist in each of the last three Olympic Games. In Athens 2004, NIMKE was part of the German team to win gold in the Team Sprint; in Sydney 2000 he won a silver medal in the 1km Time Trial and he completed the collection at the Beijing 2008 Games with a bronze medal in the Team Sprint. NIMKE is a five-time world champion, winning the 1km Time Trial in 2003, 2009 and 2011 and the Team Sprint in 2010 and 2011
Shane PERKINS (AUS) – 2011 Keirin world champion. PERKINS also won a World Championship silver medal in the Sprint in 2010, and bronze medal in the Team Sprint in 2006
Kevin SIREAU (FRA) – Team Sprint World Champion in 2008 and 2009 and Olympic silver medallist at the Beijing 2008 Games. SIREAU has held the 200m Time Trial world record since 2009.
Anna MEARES (AUS) – Captured a gold medal in the Time Trial and a bronze medal in the Sprint at the Athens 2004 Games and a Sprint silver medallist at the Beijing 2008 Games. In 2011 she won Sprint, Team Sprint and Keirin gold medals at the 2011 World Championships to take her tally of World Championship gold medals to eight.
Simona KRUPECKAITE (LTU) – Winner of 11 World Championship medals including two golds – Time Trial in 2009 and Keirin in 2010.
Sarah HAMMER (USA) – Has won four of the last six 3km Individual Pursuit titles at the World Championships (2006, 2007, 2010, 2011) and is the current world record holder (3:22.269).
Tara WHITTEN (CAN) – An Omnium specialist who has finished on the podium in the Omnium at the last three World Championships including gold medals in 2010 and 2011 to add to a bronze in 2009.
Danielle KING (GBR) – Gold medallist in both the European Championships and World Championships Team Pursuit in 2011.
Victoria PENDLETON (GBR) – Gold medallist in the Sprint at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games and winner of eight World Championship gold medals between 2005 and 2010. PENDLETON has also won gold medals at the European Championship and Commonwealth Games.
Joanne ROWSELL (GBR) – Part of the Great Britain team that won World Championship Team Pursuit titles in 2008 and 2009.
Ireland’s team and prospects?
Martyn Irvine heads the team, with his sights set on securing more valuable points for Olympic Qualification. Irvine has been performing consistently this season, with a top five result in the Omnium at the last round in Beijing. The Omnium is a new event in the Olympics, and involves cyclists competing in 6 events with points awarded according to their finish position in each event.
This is Irvine’s second last opportunity to secure qualifying points in this Olympic event before the London Games. The final qualifying event is the Track World Championships in Melbourne in April.
Caroline Ryan will be racing in the Individual Pursuit. The 2011 National Champion in this event came 7th in the Pursuit at the World Cup in Cali last December, and will be looking to knock a few more seconds off the Irish Record of 3min 39.4sec. The individual pursuit is a 3km race against the clock.
Eoin Mullen is making his World Cup Debut in London. The National Sprint record holder is a first year senior rider, and is based in Aigle; head quarters for UCI, the International Cycling Union. Eoin will be racing in the sprint, keirin and the kilo. The explosive young rider has been going from strength to strength over the last few years, and last year broke the national 200m record as a junior rider, in a time of 10.565 seconds.
In his events Mullen will get a chance to demonstrate is strength against some of the best known Olympians like Chris Hoy.
SportsNewsIreland will bring you updates from the Velodrome throughout the week.