Olympic qualification will be the focus for the 19 Great Britain Cycling Team athletes heading for Paris for the 2015 UCI Track Cycling World Championships from 18 – 22 February.
A strong team sees key sprint and endurance players return from injury with a number of riders making their senior world championships debuts at France’s National Velodrome Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines.
Last year Great Britain collected five medals at the world championships – two gold, one silver and two bronze in Cali, Colombia.
With just over 18 months until the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, expect intense racing in the French capital.
Great Britain’s male sprinters will hope to improve upon their performance at the 2014 world championships in Cali, where the squad came away without a medal in any discipline. There, Kenny was fifth in the sprint and keirin, while in the team sprint, the trio of Hindes, Kenny and Emadi could also only manage fifth.
The return of Kian Emadi to the squad following a long term injury is a welcome sight for Great Britain sprinting fans, the 22-year-old from Stoke-on-Trent giving sprint coaches options in the critical team sprint event.
Emadi suffered a lumbar disc pathology in September 2014, forcing the rider to miss the British Cycling National Track Championships, European championships and the entire three-round UCI Track Cycling World Cup series.
Now fully-recovered, Emadi will join Philip Hindes, Jason Kenny and Callum Skinner, the latter having made a name for himself in man-three during Emadi’s absence.
Skinner took a clean sweep of sprint titles at the British championships in September before claiming his maiden world cup gold medal in the team sprint in Mexico alongside Kenny and Hindes.
Philip Hindes has seen his man-one berth unchallenged since London 2012 and produced a 17.326-second opening lap during qualification at the Mexico world cup. But Hindes was off medal pace at round two in London so it remains to be seen what gains the 22-year-old has been able to make in the run in to Paris.
Teammate Kenny is keen to add to his tally of world titles, with the team sprint the big priority for the Bolton man. Kenny’s form has been promising through the world cup, producing the fastest second lap in Mexico to seal the gold medal.
The 26-year-old Olympic champion also took silver in the sprint in Mexico and made the keirin final in both world cup rounds he contested.
Great Britain’s female sprinters approach Paris defending a bronze medal in the team sprint, earned a year ago in Cali by the pairing of Jess Varnish and Becky James.
But with James recovering from a serious knee injury, the 2014 season saw Great Britain examine its women’s sprinting options, Katy Marchant gaining selection ahead of Dannielle Khan and joining Jess Varnish and Victoria Williamson in Paris.
It will be a world championships debut for former heptathlete Marchant, who joined the Great Britain Performance Pathway in April 2013 and graduated to the Olympic Podium Programme in October of the same year.
Marchant partnered Varnish in the final world cup round in Cali, the pair missing a ride in the final by just two-hundredths of a second, finishing fifth.
Varnish began her 2014 track season in style at the British championships, taking the sprint, keirin, 500-metre time trial and team sprint titles as she did the previous year.
In Mexico Varnish was partnered by Dannielle Khan but despite a strong starting lap, the pairing only managed ninth place.
The multiple British champion was united with Williamson in London and notched up fifth place, Williamson recovering her form after a 2014 that saw illness and injury disrupt her training rhythm.
At the 2014 world championships, Great Britain came away with team sprint bronze; Varnish paired with Becky James, who continues her recovery from a persistent knee injury.
Britain’s team pursuiters will hope to recover from a sub-par performance at the 2014 world championships, where the quartet of Clancy, Doull, Dibben and Harrison slumped to eighth as Australia took the world title.
Big news from the men’s endurance squad is the selection of team pursuit stalwart Steven Burke, who makes the grade despite breaking his collarbone in January.
The Olympic champion from Colne broke the bone on a road training ride in Majorca but following successful surgery Burke was able to continue his preparation relatively unhindered. Prior to the incident, Burke’s form was on a high, evidenced by the team’s return to former glory with a win at the London world cup.
Burke will form the core of the team pursuit line-up alongside Ed Clancy and Andy Tennant, the latter exhibiting his form earlier in the season winning British and European titles in the individual pursuit along with the British Madison title.
Mark Christian and Owain Doull were both part of the gold-medal-winning squad at December’s UCI Track Cycling World Cup in London, the pair also adding gold in the Madison to their palmares.
Jon Dibben will concentrate on building his omnium pedigree in Paris following a promising ride in London, which saw the Southampton-born rider finish seventh.
Making his senior world championships debut is Olympic Academy Programme rider Matt Gibson.
The 18-year-old from Cheshire had a strong second year as a junior in 2014, taking tenth in the time trial at the UCI Road World Championships in Spain, following a promising season on the road with the Olympic Development Programme.
Gibson rode his first track world cup at the final round in Cali in January and immediately made his mark, taking team pursuit bronze medal alongside Germain Burton, Chris Latham and Mark Stewart.
The women’s endurance squad will arrive in Paris to defend two world titles, the team pursuit squad aiming for a fifth consecutive world team pursuit title while Joanna Rowsell will endeavour to retain the individual gold she earned in Cali a year ago.
The indications are good for the British squad, following comfortable victories in the Mexico and London world cups.
Following impressive performances with Wales’ Team USN, Ciara Horne gained selection for the Great Britain squad for the European championships and world cup series, the 25-year-old slotting in seamlessly and filling the berth of Dani King, who left for the road in October 2014.
Elinor Barker has been the keystone of the squad since 2012, riding every world cup and world championship round in which a team has been fielded, an astonishing display of consistency in a squad that has seen numerous personnel changes and the move to the 4000-metre race distance.
A newcomer in 2013, Katie Archibald is now an integral part of the squad along with Barker and Rowsell, allowing Laura Trott to balance omnium and team pursuit duties.
Trott herself will be keen to continue her long-term omnium battle with USA’s Sarah Hammer, who pipped the Olympic champion to the world title a year ago in Cali.
Since then, the 22-year-old from Essex has embraced the new omnium format, which places greater emphasis on the Trott’s former Achilles heel, the points race. Working with former points race world champion Chris Newton, Trott has turned the corner in her bunch racing, with a convincing home world cup win in London.
The National Velodrome Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines will see its first major international competition with the UCI Track Cycling World Championships.
Built in the town of Saint Quentin-en-Yvelines on the outskirts of Paris, the state-of-the-art facility was officially opened in January 2014 and is home to the French national track squad.
Alongside the world-class 250-metre track, the venue also boasts an international standard BMX track amid a host of multi-sport facilities.
The Great Britain Cycling Team have won 108 medals at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships since 2000.
The championships run from 18-22 February, beginning with the women’s team pursuit qualifying on Wednesday 18 February at 3pm local time and ending on Sunday 22 February with the men’s sprint finals.
View the full 2015 UCI Track Cycling World Championships schedule. (Times in schedule are UK time + 1 hour)
Live reports, images, results and reaction will appear on the British Cycling website.
You can also follow live updates on Twitter via @BritishCycling.
Selected action will appear on the BBC as follows:
- Live on the red button, connected TV and BBC Sport website every evening finals session. (except Thursday red button only and Sunday connected TV and BBC Sport website only)
- Live on BBC2 Thursday from 7:00pm - 8:00pm UK time (except in Wales - available on iPlayer)
- Live on BBC2 Sunday from 12:50pm - 4:30pm UK time (except in Wales - available on iPlayer)
The Great Britain team for the 2015 UCI Track Cycling World Championships