Earlier this month, the latest chapter in track cycling’s fiercest rivalry was played out at Melbourne’s Hisense Arena. The 2012 set the stage for the Aussies to hold their own against a champion British team, in the last international event before the London Olympics. The Aussies were led by our golden girl, sprinter Anna Meares and Madison champ Cameron Meyer.
The meet was important for Meyer, as it was probably his last championship before leaving the track for the big bucks of professional road cycling.
Australia ended the event on top, with 15 medals – six gold, six silver and three bronze. It was an impressive showing from a young team, including the ‘boy band’ of our team sprinters. The average age of the three men is just 21, in a sport where careers extend well into the 30s.
The Brits – led by four-time Olympic champion, ten-time world champion, and all-out cycling god, sprinter Sir Chris Hoy – ended the week in second, with 13 medals: six gold, four silver and three bronze.
The Australian Cyclones have put themselves in good stead for the London Games, after wins in the men’s individual pursuit and men’s points race, and an upset win in the men’s team sprint. Anna Meares took out two titles (500m time trial and the keirin), but not before roughing up her rival, Briton Victoria Pendleton, in the individual sprint. There was no love lost between the two, and it’s clear the rivalry will continue on revitalised in London.
With the track the flagship for Australian cycling, funding has been funneled into the discipline over recent years. Cycling Australia’s commitment definitely shows, with the Aussies edging out the well-funded Brits in Melbourne.
The upset of the meet came from inside the British team itself.
Sir Chris Hoy – knighted for his ‘contribution to the Commonwealth’ in track sprinting – was ousted by the younger, leaner, Jason Kenny. Hoy ended up third in his primary race, the individual sprint, with Kenny taking out second. Whether this will affect Hoy’s selection chances for London remains unseen. The question also remains whether a young Australian sprint team will be able to best the British power-houses, and whether the all-rounders can edge out the Brits without the guiding presence of Meyer leading up to the Olympics. The Pendleton-Meares is also heating up, with the pair now trading titles as well as barbs.
James O’Doherty is on Twitter: