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Australian cycling on track for Olympics

Thomas de Gendt leads the Criterium du Dauphine after winning Stage 1 (AAP Image/Benjamin Macmahon)
Expert
12th April, 2012
0

After the highly successful start for Australia to the road cycling season, we have followed it up with one of our best ever overall results at the Track World Championships, which concluded in Melbourne on Sunday.

Historically, success on the track was a given for the Aussies. However, as in the Ashes, we have recently been dominated by the old enemy, Britain. We were coming off a very low base, with Anna Meares’ silver being the only medal won on the track in Beijing in 2008.

But now you would have to say we are back on track (pun intended) for the London Olympics which kicks off in a little over one hundred days.

Australia led the medal tally in Melbourne with 15, edging out Britain who picked up 13. Australia and Britain shared the honors when it came to gold with six each, however we picked up six silvers compared to their four. The next best was France with two golds.

Of course, the only caveat on this is that not all events held at the World Championships are Olympic events. If you take only the sub-set which are Olympic events, the Brits would pick up six gold and one bronze, while we would take home three gold, four silver, and one bronze. Still a much better outcome than the embarrassment of Beijing.

Of all the great Australian performances of the week you can’t go past the comeback queen Anna Meares.

We all know about her sickening crash in Los Angeles which left her with a fractured neck (among numerous other injuries) just months before the Beijing Olympics.

A lesser woman may never have got on her bike again. But this girl is tough as nails. Her mental resilience was again on display in Melbourne.

Meares lost the women’s sprint semi-final to her arch rival Victoria Pendleton in agonising circumstances. In the best-of-three semi she won the first, was disqualified in the second, and was just edged out in the third.

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But the Lazarus of women’s cycling would not let the disappointment cloud the rest of her World Championships campaign, coming back to win gold in the keirin and the 500m time trial.

Speaking of comebacks, has there been anything more remarkable on the track than Cameron Meyer’s win in the men’s points race?

Meyer took out the event by just a single point over Great Britain’s Ben Swift, despite his every move being shadowed by the field. Remarkably he was able to put a lap on the field in the final laps when the race looked all but gone.

As with Meares, it was a win that showed Meyer has courage in equal parts to his pace.

His reputation as one of Australia’s best prospects continues to grow – some have even touted him as a future grand tour winner.

It was with mixed emotions that cycling fans learned that Meyer has decided not to ride in the London Olympics. “It was a very hard decision to make, but ultimately my passion for the team pursuit isn’t 100 per cent,” Meyer said in a Cycling Australia press release.

“In Melbourne, I achieved what I wanted to on the track through my points race win and making the podium for the madison. I take huge satisfaction from that and now want to see what I can achieve on the road.”

The Olympic team’s loss is GreenEDGE’s gain. As Phil Anderson told the SMH, the stark reality is that “another gold medal might be good in Australia, but it doesn’t add much to your bank account.” Anderson believes that that Meyer’s strategy of concentrating on the road is the right one at this point in his career.

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Two young guns who will compete in the men’s team Pursuit in London are Michael Hepburn and Jack Bobridge, who were part of the team that took silver in Melbourne after being edged out by Britain.

The two young riders also filled the top two positions on the podium for the individual pursuit. At 20 and 22 years of age respectively, it shows the level of young talent in Australian cycling.

Both are signed with GreenEDGE, and like Meyer, will make the full transition to road careers at some point.

This all bodes well for our road cycling stocks. As Anderson stated, “It has been proven that Australian elite endurance track riders do extremely well on the road.”