No. 10 Becky James
Last year’s position: n/a
With the addition of the team sprint and Keirin for women to the Olympic Games track programme, it’s a great time to be a sprinter.
And British Cycling have such emerging strength that there’s every reason to be optimistic.
Of course there is Victoria Pendleton, the Olympic sprint champion, and Shanaze Reade, who has tremendous potential on the track but is continuing to concentrate on BMX. Then there is Jessica Varnish and Helen Scott of Halesowen.
But this year’s breakthrough rider was Becky James. She only turned 18 in November and won’t even be able to commit full-time to cycling until next summer when she finishes her A-Levels, but already she’s a double junior world champion.
The Welsh teenager won two titles at the Junior World Track Championships in Moscow – the sprint and the Keirin. She also took silver in the team sprint. She also broke the junior world record for the flying 200m time trial in the process.
It made her the most successful British rider at the junior track Worlds since Jason Kenny won three golds a few years ago.
At the National Championships, where Pendleton won all three titles for sprinters, James and Varnish battled for silver and bronze. Varnish got the edge in the 500m and knocked James out in the semi-finals of the sprint, but James won silver in the Keirin.
James and Varnish also met in the B sprint competition at the Manchester World Cup at the end of October, with James winning the head-to-head race for ninth and 10th places 2-0. The pair teamed up for the team sprint, where they were only narrowly denied a bronze medal by the Germans.
With three events for the sprinters at the 2012 Games, and two places to British riders on offer, the fight between James, Varnish and Scott is going to intensify over the next two-and-a-half years.