Great Britain’s Geraint Thomas has sent a warning to Australia’s team pursuit squad in a challenge that will come to a head at Melbourne’s world championships next April.
On the back of a decision to skip the Spring Classics for the world championships and Tour de France in favour of chasing his Olympic ambitions on the track, Thomas has conceded that Australia has the edge but has identified the world championships as the key opportunity to prove the Brits can’t be written off just yet.
Meanwhile, New Zealand have also put their hat in the ring with a fourth fastest time in history in the team pursuit overnight joining a host of results from the current Oceania Championships that put the Kiwi’s amongst the major challengers for rainbow jerseys in Melbourne.
On the road Thomas was a key lead out man for Mark Cavendish at the 2011 road world championships and on the track he joined teammates Bradley Wiggins, Ed Clancy and Paul Manning to win gold in the teams pursuit at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in world record time, but he admits any victory in 2012 will be hard fought.
“The Track Worlds in Melbourne is a big hit. I think we have to go there and do well,” Thomas told VeloUK.
“If I was riding the individual pursuit and only that, then yes, perhaps I could miss the Track Worlds and do the Classics but for the team pursuit, it’s important we have our best team there. To go down there and race the Aussies and showing them what we can do. For sure it will be a hell of a lot harder than the gold we won in Beijing.”
“To be honest I think the Australians are probably ahead of us in the team pursuit now," Thomas also conceded to Eurosport.
“They are the current world champions and are posting some impressive times.
“However, we haven’t had our best side out for a while so when we do, we know we have to go out, work hard and do whatever we have to do to get in front of them again.”
Hoy’s key Olympic preparation underway in Australia
A key summer training period in Australia and return to Melbourne for the world championships in April are top priorities for four-time Olympic champion Sir Chris Hoy in his preparation for the London Olympics next year.
Returning to winning form at the first UCI Track World Cup in Kazakhstan earlier this month, the ten-time world champion is currently in Perth for a training block before returning to Manchester with the British squad.
The 35-year-old will then join the world’s best riders in what will be their only chance to race on the Olympic velodrome at the London leg of the world cup in February. With riders lining up to compete, the final world cup event will provide the best indication of challengers for the world championships and Olympic Games.
Whilst still recovering from illness, Hoy’s campaign is back on track.
"I'm still having lingering problems with my chest; and I didn't feel great after the keirin last weekend in Astana, but hopefully being out in the warm air in Australia will help to clear it up," Hoy wrote on his website.
"Overall I'm really pleased with how the last couple of months have gone in terms of performance, although it was obviously hindered a bit by getting ill just before the Europeans. I really enjoyed the Nationals and winning three golds was a great start to the season and a real boost.
“I had flu before the Europeans and then picked up a chest infection so I had to come home early which was really frustrating and disappointing, but the first round of the World Cup series in Astana gave me the opportunity to bounce back and I was delighted to win the sprint and to come away with a silver in the keirin.
In terms of Olympic qualification points the team's looking comfortable and we're in a good place leading into the next phase of competition, starting with the London World Cup in February."
Kiwi’s flying at Oceania Championships
New Zealand quartet of Marc Ryan, Sam Bewley, Aaron Gate and Jesse Sergent took two seconds off the national record to post the fourth fastest time in history at the Oceania Championships in Invercargill.
Their time of 3.55.295 makes them the second fastest nation, with Great Britain the only nation to go faster. It tops Australia’s fastest time by just over one tenth of a second.
Just as strong in the women’s event, Alison Shanks, Lauren Ellis and Jaime Nielsen posted the second fastest time in history (3:19.759) to smash the national record they set earlier that day by four seconds.
Alison Shanks (individual pursuit) and women’s sprint pair Natasha Hansen and Katie Schofield also set New Zealand records in some fast racing at Invercargill.
The championships wrap up today with the men’s and women’s sprint, omnium and men’s madison.
The next UCI Track World Cup is December 1-3 in Cali, Columbia. The series then moves to China in January and London in February before the track season culminates at the 2012 UCI Track Cycling World Championships.
The UCI Track Cycling World Championships stand at the pinnacle of world track cycling, attracting up to 350 of the world’s best riders from more than 40 countries. The final qualifying event in the lead up to the London Olympic Games, the 2012 UCI Track Cycling World Championships will be held at Hisense Arena in Melbourne from Wednesday 4 to Sunday 8 April.
For more information on the 2012 UCI Track Cycling World Championships, visitwww.2012trackworlds.com.au