The Great British Para-Cycling team will face its first major test ahead of London 2012 at the UCI Para-Cycling Track World Championships (March 11- 13).
The championships, being held in Motichiari, Italy, are the first opportunity for Team GB to earn track qualification points for the London Paralympics, owing to a new classification system and the squad’s lengthy break from racing.
With a number of rivals missing from the Para-Cycling Track World Championships in Manchester in 2009, in which Britain claimed 13 medals, this will be the first chance for Team GB to compete against some of their 2012 medal rivals.
Britain will have seven Paralympic champions, a current double World Champion and a handful of promising London 2012 hopefuls making their World Championship debut.
Day one: Friday 11 March
A battle of the Brits in the C3 men’s pursuit is on the cards on day one, with six times Paralympic champion Darren Kenny and Paralympic silver medallist Rik Waddon measuring up against the talent of Shaun McKeown, bronze medallist at the road World Championships in Canada last year.
Paralympic Champion Jody Cundy will ride the individual pursuit for the first time in the C4 category, before former RAF man Jon-Allan Butterworth makes his World Championship debut in the C5 pursuit.
Butterworth’s main competition will be Australian Michael Gallagher, who is the current World and Paralympic champion, and world record holder.
Paralympic and World champion Aileen McGlynn will look to continue her undefeated record in the women’s Tandem, having not lost in the event since Athens in 2004. McGlynn’s new pilot Helen Scott will ride with her, while Lora Turnham, piloted by Fiona Duncan, will also compete in the event.
The Men’s 1km Tandem will see the first reunion of Anthony Kappes and Barney Storey since Beijing 2008, where they raced to victory.
Another Team GB battle is possible, as Neil Fachie, who won gold with Storey at the 2009 World Championships, seeks to defend his World champion title with powerful new pilot Craig MacLean.
Day two: Saturday 12 March
Paralympic Pursuit champion Sarah Storey won gold in the able-bodied team pursuit at the Manchester Track World Cup last month, but she returns to ride her first solo race since the Commonwealth Games last October.
Competition is likely to come in the form of ever-improving Anna Harkowska (Poland), who will want revenge after losing to Storey in the 2010 World Championships road race.
Sarah’s husband Barney will pilot Anthony Kappes in the 4km Tandem pursuit in a new event for the pairing. Australian Keiran Modra, the current Paralympic champion, could well be the rider to beat here.
The Brits will clash again in the afternoon when Darren Kenny, Rik Waddon and Shaun McKeown go head to head in the C3 1km, followed by Tel Byrne against Jody Cundy and Jon-Allan Butterworth racing Paralympic and World Champion Mark Bristow in the in the C4 kilo.
Day three: Sunday 13 March
Paralympic Tandem sprint champions Anthony Kappes and Barney Storey could end up facing World Champion Neil Fachie, piloted by Craig Maclean. However, the competition looks strong this year with other nations adopting the same tactic as Team GB by recruiting former able-bodied sprinters as tandem pilots.
Aileen McGlynn/Helen Scott and Lora Turnham/Fiona Duncan will follow them in the Women’s Tandem pursuit, and strong competition from American Karissa Whitsell, current World Champion, is likely. Sarah Storey will look to defend her World Champion title in the 500m time trial, before Jody Cundy (riding his third discipline of the weekend), Darren Kenny and Tel Byrne, compete together in the team sprint for the first time at world level, look to round off the weekend’s racing in style.
Jason Cundy at Track World Cup with Cycling Weekly