Last year, Great Britain swept all before them at the Manchester World Cup, winning all but three of the gold medals on offer, as the velodrome bathed in the glow of post-Olympic glory.
Many of the opposition nations did not send full-strength teams, which allowed the British riders to dominate.
It won’t be quite as one-sided this weekend, but Great Britain’s riders still want to get their World Championship qualification campaign off to a flying start.
The sprinters, in particular, want to wrap up as many points as possible to avoid having to send teams to the final two World Cup rounds in Colombia and China.
London 2012 is on the horizon, and the countdown begins here. Between now and the Olympic Games, there will be three World Championships and 11 scheduled rounds of the World Cup.
So, what can we expect in Manchester this weekend?
Geraint Thomas will ride the individual pursuit, even though the event looks set to be scrapped from the Olympic Games when the programme of events is ratified in December.
The Welsh rider, an established member of the team pursuit squad, won the national title last week in a time of 4-18. That would have been good enough to win all of last season’s World Cup rounds, and would have netted him a medal at the Beijing Olympics and Pruszkow World Championships.
Thomas is keen to ride the individual pursuit to give his track work added edge as his focus switches to the road with Team Sky over the next two seasons. “I’d like to ride the individual at the World Championships in future, though maybe not this season,” he said.
The team pursuit squad will see a new face join the quartet. Ben Swift, who rides for Katusha on the road, will make his first world-class start for the team alongside Steven Burke, Ed Clancy and Thomas. Andrew Tennant is also in the squad.
Why no British Madison pair?
However, there will not be a British presence in the men’s Madison, partly because the programme in Manchester has been altered to suit television’s needs. In recent years the team pursuit has been held on the Saturday with the Madison on Sunday.
Cycling Weekly understands that the BBC, which only has live coverage scheduled for BBC2 on Sunday afternoon, wanted to show the men’s and women’s team pursuit events.
Riding the Madison before the team pursuit is thought to pose too much of a risk, in terms of the increased chance of a crash and the sheer physical effect of the race. So Thomas and Swift, who would have been the Great Britain pair will not ride the Madison. The Madison is set to be chopped from the Olympic Games programme – along with the points race and individual pursuits.
Armitstead goes for another triple
Last year, Lizzie Armitstead won the points race, scratch race and was part of the victorious team pursuit team in Manchester. She will attempt to repeat the performance, which will likely feature stronger competition this time. Wendy Houvenaghel will ride the individual pursuit. They will be joined by Jo Rowsell for the team pursuit, which has added edge as it is likely to be included in the Olympic programme. As CW reported first, Olympic pursuit champion Rebecca Romero is not part of the squad, and that may well spell the end of her track career, with a switch to the road time trial a possibility.
Newton goes for bunch race double
Chris Newton, who won the bronze medal in the points race at the Beijing Olympics, told CW recently that he would consider riding the omnium at London 2012 if the points race is chopped from the programme.
The points and scratch races are both omnium disciplines, and Newton was crowned national champion in each last week. He will be Britain’s rider in both events in Manchester.
Sky+HD’s Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton are the stand-out stars on show in Manchester this weekend. Both riders sealed three national titles on the same track last week.
Hoy is back in action at the very highest level for the first time since his crash in the Keirin at the Copenhagen World Cup in the spring. That ruled him out of the World Championships.
The Scotsman has a packed programme of Keirin, sprint, team sprint and Japanese Keirin.
Pendleton will ride the sprint and Keirin and is likely to also ride the 500m time trial. However, she is not riding the team sprint. Instead, Jess Varnish and Becky James will line up for Great Britain.
Anna Blyth is the notable absentee. She was ill in late summer, and had to pull out of the European Omnium Championships. She’s been riding with the endurance group and British Cycling coaches see her as a possible rider for the omnium.
Youngsters James and Varnish get the full World Cup experience, with places in the sprint, Keirin and 500m.
Hoy and Ross Edgar will ride the sprint and Keirin for Team Sky+HD and will be joined by Jamie Staff in the Keirin. Jason Kenny, who rode in Sky+HD colours last winter returns to the Great Britain skinsuit for the Keirin, sprint and team sprint, alongside Matt Crampton and David Daniell. Daniell also rides the kilometre.
Former men’s junior sprint world champion Peter Mitchell is the other young sprinter named in Sky+HD’s team, but he is a reserve for the team sprint and unless there is a mishap is unlikely to ride.
See Thursday’s Cycling Weekly for more on Britain’s plans for the weekend