Cycling Weekly is revealing the top 50 2012 British Riders of the Year, counting down every day until December 19.
We kicked off the countdown yesterday with four riders, and today it’s two more. The top 10 will be revealed in Cycling Weekly’s Christmas issue, on sale from Thursday December 20.
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46th REBECCA JAMES
The next track sprint queen?
Victoria Pendleton’s retirement should have left a huge hole in Britain’s track squad. But the emergence of two brilliant young sprinters and Pendleton’s exit from the velodrome boards to the dance floor means that Britain could be even stronger in Rio in four years’ time.
One of them is the Welsh rider Becky James, a former junior world champion who shot to prominence at the Commonwealth Games a couple of years ago.
At one stage she looked to be in the frame for an Olympic place but the second half of 2011 turned out to be a difficult spell, particularly when she got food poisoning at a World Cup meeting in Kazakhstan.
However, 2012 has very gone well. She won a silver and two bronze medals in the three sprint events at the under-23 European Championships in Portugal during the summer.
Then she won two national titles – the 500 metres and the sprint – before teaming up with Jessica Varnish to win the team sprint at the World Cup rounds in Cali and Glasgow.
There’s so little to choose between James and Varnish at the moment that there promises to be a fascinating battle between the pair over the next three years.
45th JESSICA VARNISH
The next track sprint queen?
Jessica Varnish would have won an Olympic medal but for their disqualification in the team sprint in London.
The 22-year-old from Bromsgrove partnered Victoria Pendleton to break the world record in the team sprint qualifying round. After a few tentative steps, she finally nailed the woman one position in a supremely technical event.
The Chinese pair of Gong Jinjie and Guo Shuang went faster moments later, but Varnish and Pendleton were still in a strong position.
In their first round match, they won their heat in a time that would have secured a ride for the gold and silver medals, but the eagle-eyed commissaire spotted that they failed to change over in the correct zone and disqualified them.
According to the letter of the law it was the correct decision, and there had been similarly strict interpretations of the regulation during the competition. But it seemed extremely tough on Varnish who, unlike Pendleton, left the Games without a medal.
That Varnish has bounced back so strongly – forging an extremely promising team sprint double act with Becky James in the two World Cups of the winter season – speaks volumes for her resilience.
Now the pair are vying to be crowned as Queen Victoria’s natural successor in the sprint and Keirin.
Don’t agree with our choice of riders? You can vote for your top 10 British Riders of 2012 on the CW website. When Tweeting about our countdown or your nominees, use the #ridersoftheyear hashtag. We’ll be running your choice in a future issue.