Cycling: Hoy faces bumpy ride to London

World champion says it will be 'tough' to win in 2012 as rivals target him
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The Independent Online

It is a good job that Sir Chris Hoy is one of the toughest of competitors. The most successful Olympic cyclist in British history has his eyes on more glory in London in two years' time but knows that he faces many a bruising encounter along the way.

The keirin, in particular, can be a ferocious battle of strength, as Hoy discovered in Copenhagen on Thursday night when he celebrated his return to global competition by winning his 10th world championship gold medal.

Hoy, who suffered a serious hip injury when he was involved in the worst crash of his career in a keirin competition in the same Ballerup Super Arena last year, was floored again in the first round but escaped injury. He later needed all his strength to win a highly competitive final, holding off a late charge by Malaysia's Awang Azizulhasni.

The first five-and-a-half laps of the keirin are paced by a motor bike and Hoy, who likes to lead the pack when they break for the final two-and-a-half laps, found himself having to fight hard for position.

"If you keep on winning, they're going to look for ways to try and beat you," Hoy said. "I think people have found that if they let me get to the front, it's hard to get past me, so they're trying to get ahead of me, stall my speed and leave it as late as possible. That's when accidents happen, like at the World Cup last year. I believe if I take control of the race, if I dictate what happens, then I've got more of a chance of winning and that's what I try and do."

He added: "All the time people will be studying the videos. They'll be looking at how I ride. So far so good, but I don't expect it to be an easy path to London. It's going to be tough and I'm going to have to improve if I want to be champion there again."

Hoy, who won a team sprint bronze on the opening day, begins his quest for a third medal in the individual competition this afternoon.

Victoria Pendleton began the defence of her world sprint title yesterday but could finish only seventh in qualifying before securing a place in last night's quarter-finals. Jessica Varnish, who was unlucky to meet Pendleton in the round of 16, and Rebecca James both went out.

Twenty-four hours earlier Pendleton and Varnish had finished fourth in the team sprint competition, which was won by Australia's Anna Meares and Kaarle McCulloch in a world record time of 32.923sec. Britain's Joanna Rowsell, Wendy Houvenaghel and Lizzie Armitstead had to settle for silver in the women's team pursuit, which was also won by Australia.

The British men's pursuit team were facing Australia in the gold medal race last night. In the afternoon session Steven Burke, Ed Clancy, Ben Swift and Andrew Tennant qualified more than a second quicker than their great rivals. Their time of 3min 56.869sec was the fastest ever recorded in qualifying.