After Team GB’s magnificent performance in the velodrome in London last summer, the track cycling world championships taking place over the next few days will certainly be an indicator as to which of our London heroes will be making the plane to Rio in four years time.
There are changes abound for the British team without the herculean Chris Hoy and legendary Victoria Pendleton. So there will be some new faces around the velodrome this weekend in Minsk.
One of the most notable new performers is Kian Emadi, who is taking over from Chris Hoy as the third man in the team sprint and is Britain’s cyclist of choice in the 1 kilometre time trial, previously an Olympic race and previously Chris Hoy’s event. There’s an awful lot of pressure on the 20 year old from Stoke-on-Trent.
He takes the man-three spot in the team sprint, a crucial role and he has enormous shoes to fill. While Jason Kenny is the man of the moment and the cyclist who will undoubtedly shoulder the hopes of team GB in Rio in 2016, Emadi has a lot to prove at these championships. And he started very brightly with a fourth place in the men’s 1 kilo time trial, which follows on from his silver in a world cup event in January.
Technically, he looks a very smooth and well rounded rider and he has the pace to back it up. The man-three spot in the team sprint should serve to take some pressure off him as well, with Jason Kenny riding in man-two, all Emadi has to do is make sure he keeps up with the Olympic sprint champion, something even Chris Hoy was struggling to do at the Olympics.
There are some unfamiliar faces in the men’s team pursuit as well, Ed Clancy retakes his position among a young and fairly inexperienced team as Geraint Thomas and Peter Kennaugh have moved permanently to road cycling and Team Sky. They finished in second place at the world championships, which admittedly is disappointing considering only a few months previously they had smashed the world record on their way to an Olympic gold medal. But it’s a new team and they’re only just starting out together, only Ed Clancy and Peter Burke remain from the Olympic line up, with new boys Andy Tennant and Sam Harrison picking up when Thomas and Kennaugh left off.
It was a carbon copy of the Olympic final…except the roles were reversed. This time the Aussie’s, also with two new team members, came off as victors. Regardless of this fact, the result will still disappoint Dave Brailsford, our team pursuit boys were the reigning world champions and double Olympic champions, to lose to a fairly new Australian team is a bitter blow.
But Britain does have something to be positive about with the bronze medal achieved by Becky James and Vicky Williamson in the women’s sprint. Without the injured Jess Varnish and the retirement of Pendleton, James and Williamson weren’t expected to medal. But they rode brilliantly in the bronze medal match to definitely give Brailsford a headache when it comes to selection for Rio.
Not all our Olympic heroes are disappearing off into the glowing sunset of retirement or being lured by the shiny success of Team Sky and road racing though. Double Olympic champion Jason Kenny very firmly remains an integral part of the British team, as does his girlfriend, and a double Olympic champion in her own right, Laura Trott. Both are the key members Brailsford must build his Rio team around. Kenny is easily the future of British cycling, Hoy tipped him to overtake his Olympic gold medal record and it’s a very feasible prediction with Kenny already having three Olympic golds to his name at 24 years old.
Trott as well is the integral member of the women’s pursuit team. With Joanna Rowsell making the switch to the road, Trott and Danni King will be joined by Elinor Barker in the hopes of defending their title. There will be undoubtedly be a lot of switching and swapping from Minsk to Rio. Jason Kenny himself was drafted into the team for the Beijing Olympics in 2008 only a few months before the games took place, equally, Hindes was a late introduction before the London games.
Losing or winning in Minsk is not the be all and end all. But it is an indicator as to where the team is going. The world championships immediately following the 2008 Olympics was a huge disappointment, Britain only won two gold medals and everyone wrote us off. Four years later it was like Beijing de-ja-vu. So while the early signs say we’re in a period of transition, we still have many of our Olympic champions in the velodrome.
I don’t think we’ll have any problems on the road to Rio. The future post Hoy and Pendleton looks very bright indeed, and it belongs to the youngsters in Minsk.