2011 National Track Championships: 28 Sept - 2 Oct 2011, Manchester Velodrome | | | (pdf download) |
We run an eye over the field for the National track Championships and take a punt at who might be in the running for the medals.
With many of the GB Cycling Team's leading riders competing, this event is an excellent opportunity to see them in action ahead of what will be a vitally important winter of racing, running in to the 2012 Olympic Games.
But whilst there's a host of established stars, it's also noticeable how many highly talented and exciting young riders are coming through at the moment. In both the men's and women's endurance races, the fields are dominated by riders under the age of 25, whilst both men's and women's sprint line-ups, although featuring household names, also boast a remarkable array of riders under the age of 20 and with their eyes firmly focussed on a career at the top of the sport. This should ensure some highly competitive racing and perhaps an upset or two.
Sam Harrison in pursuiting mode
Men's 4000m Individual Pursuit
Olympic bronze medallist Steven Burke should start this event as a clear favourite. He will face some tough opposition from some of the best young riders, most notably the defending champion, Sky's Pete Kennaugh and his team-mate Ben Swift, 100% ME duo of Sam Harrison, last year's bronze medallist, and Mark Christian, the man he beat to that medal. Look out too for Sam and Mark's team-mate Jon Mould who just missed the medal rides last year and Jonathan Dibben, who is an outstanding first year junior and is fresh from a strong ride in the time trial at the Road World Championships.
Men's Points Race and Scratch Race
They dominated the event last year and the only rider to challenge them - Simon Yates - has joined their number, so look to the 100% ME boys to be a big influence on the Points Race. Last year's race was the first for some years which didn't feature multiple national champion, Chris Newton, and the young 100% ME riders he now looks after on behalf of the GB Team ripped the race apart and treated the crowd to one of the best races of recent years. Yates should be in the mix again - this is a race which suits his style perfectly - as should Mark Christian, Jon Mould, Tom Moses, Erick Rowsell, Jo Kelly and especially Sam Harrison who has improved hugely in the last 12 months. However, our tip for gold is again Pete Kennaugh, who should have the edge thanks to his greater experience.
The Scratch race should feature much the same field and again we should look to the same candidates to take the medals. It may well hinge on a rider being able to catch the field napping and steal a lap as Pete Kennaugh did last year. This often happens sometime just after the half distance point. Look out too for Simon Yates, who will be looking to improve on his silver medal of last year.
Women's Sprint, Keirin and 500m TT
Who can beat Victoria Pendleton? Even at world level this is the question on everyone's lips, especially in the Match Sprint. Victoria may have finally been dethroned at this year's world championships, but does she have any credible opposition at domestic level? She has been utterly dominant for nearly a decade and, even this year, it would be a brave pundit who would bet against another Pendleton treble in these events.
However, in Becky James and Jess Varnish, Victoria will face two exciting young riders who have both improved dramatically in the last 12 months. Expect the "queen of the ‘drome" to successfully defend her throne, but not without a fight. It should also be interesting to watch the progress of Victoria Williamson, an outstanding junior rider.
Wendy Houvenaghel, Laura Trott and Dani King
Women's 3000m Individual Pursuit
There's never been a stronger field for this particular race. Olympic champion Rebecca Romero is slated to appear, though she hasn't made it to the start line very often since her victory in Beijing. However, the beaten finalist in Beijing, Wendy Houvenaghel has raced almost constantly since 2008 and to a consistently high standard. Even if Romero rides, Wendy should be a clear favourite. Behind these Olympic giants, there's a lot of quality, not least Dani King and Laura Trott, who took the world Team Pursuit title alongside Houvenaghel earlier this year. Last year's beaten finalist, Sarah Storey should also be in the mix, along with Hannah Mayho and Joanna Rowsell.
Kilometre Time Trial
Defending champion Bruce Croall will have his work cut out to retain his title in the Kilo and it's two endurance riders, Steven Burke and Sam Harrison, who look the likeliest to unseat him. Burke has a number of very fast Kilos behind him and, if he's at his best, could go close to the 61 second mark. Harrison is, similarly, an endurance rider with real power and he too could threaten Croall. Watch out too for Paralympic world record holder Jody Cundy who is likely to be in the mix.
Men's Keirin & Sprint
There's an embarrassment of riches in the Men's Keirin start list. The Sky Track Cycling big guns, Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny and Ross Edgar will be looking to blow away the opposition and on any sort of form they should divide the medals between themselves. The battle between Hoy and Kenny to be recognised as our top male sprinter has been favouring the younger man in the Sprint, but Hoy continues to dominate Keirins. These events will be an early indicator as to how this battle might develop going into Olympic year. Matt Crampton isn't currently expected to ride the Keirin, but could be a threat to Hoy and Kenny in the sprint. Other than Matt, David Daniell and young sprinters Peter Mitchell and Callum Skinner look like the Sky riders' main threats.
Women's Scratch Race and Points Race
The Women's Scratch race will feature two genuinely world class riders in Lizzie Armitstead and Laura Trott. Both have the ability to rip the race apart, though they also have the weapons to win from a more cagey strategy. However, if it comes down to a straight sprint to the line, it's hard to see anyone really challenging Armitstead.
Similarly, in the Points Race, Armitstead's sprinting prowess will be hard to resist. It will be interesting to observe how Trott and the other riders choose to combat Lizzie.
Other riders to watch out for in the Points Race include the consistent Katie Colclough and national Crit champion Hannah Barnes. Dani King rides just the Scratch Race and will pose a serious threat, even to Armitstead. Finally, keep an eye on Lucy Garner, who took the Women's Road Series with amazing ease, despite just being a first year Junior. She's a serious talent and could easily cause an upset.
Despite the final team line-ups still to be confirmed at time of going to press, we can at least point you in the direction of the Motorpoint quartet of Hannah Barnes, Lucy Garner, Harriet Owen and Hannah Walker. However you perm it, that's two quality teams. Also, watch out for Dani King and Laura Trott - their partners are yet to be confirmed, but both should be in the mix whoever they ride with: and if they pair up, they'd be hot favourites.
Jason Kenny, defending champion in the Match Sprint
In the women's race, it all hinges on the big four - Pendleton, Varnish, James and Williamson - and whether they ride and whom they pair up with. Last year's winners were Varnish and James and if they ride together again, they should be a match for the rest.
The men's event will also hinge on the big stars - Hoy, Edgar, Daniell, Kenny, Crampton - and how they are teamed up. With relatively few opportunities to race this highly technical event, the GB Cycling Team often put out a strong trio with an eye on the winter's World Cup campaign. Expect more of the same this year and a very fast final time!
Again, we don't know the final line-ups, but in the Women's event both Motorpoint and Horizon Fitness/Prendas Ciclismo have entered teams and should be there or thereabouts when the final comes round.
The men's event is harder to call and with few opportunities for riders to compete in a Team Pursuit indoors, it's going to be guesswork at best to pick a winner. Last year VC St Raphael won a dramatic final in which their opponents, Science in Sport, crashed just as they were on the verge of catching them and winning the gold medal. Both have entered again and no doubt Science in Sport will be out to put the record straight. Watch out too for the Hargroves Cycles team, who have a number of quality track riders to call on and the Cyclepremier/Metaltek team, who can draw on a strong squad of road riders.
The national championships omnium is decided over four events, the Points Race, Scratch Race, Elimination Race and 200m Time Trial (the World Championship and Olympic format also includes individual Prusuit and 1000m Time Trial). This format should suit the bunch race experts rather more than those who excel against the clock. Pete Kennaugh and 100% ME's Harrison, Kelly, Christian, Yates, Mould and Moses will all fancy their chances, as should Steven Burke. Again, Kennaugh will start as favourite. The defending champion is Alistair Rutherford, who took the title in August 2010 with wins in Elimination, Scratch and Points Races.
John-Allan Butterworth, C5 Kilo world record holder
Amongst the most hotly contested and intriguing races of the week will be the three Paracycling National Championships. With some of the sport's most successful athletes ever, including Paralympic medallists Jody Cundy, Darren Kenny, Anthony Kappes, Rik Waddon and Aileen McGlynn, competing, these races have a special attraction which is also due, in no small part, to the unique scoring system.
Every rider competes not only against their cycling opponents, but also against the record book. In short, a rider's time is measured against the world record for the distance and category and the rider is awarded points on a sliding scale: the closer they get to their corresponding world best, the more points they get. It's the nearest thing cycling has to the golf handicap system and it ensures that riders with a wide range of disabilities can compete against each other on a "level playing field."
As well as the household names, a number of athletes make their debuts in this year's Championships: these include Mazyar Ossmiasaeed, an Iranian born rider who has recently taken up a British passport; Rob Yeatman who won the national BTTC Paracycling time trial championships earlier this month and at 17 years old is an outstanding young talent; and even younger, there's Sophie Thornhill, a 15 year old rider will team up with 16 year old pilot Jessica Anderson in an exciting new tandem pairing.
Looking back at 2010's video highlights
Team Sprint | 500TT | Women's Madison | Madison crash | Scratch Race | Team Sprint | Women's Points | Varnish v James 1 | Varnish v James 2 | Men's points race | Men's Sprint Final B | Women's Scratch Race | Kenny versus Hoy Match A | Men's Team Pursuit Bronze Medal Final | Men's Team Pursuit Final Crash | Women's Team Pursuit Final | Men's Keirin Final | Men's Junior Madison | Women's Keirin Final