The London Olympics may be over a year away, but as the curtain rises on the World Track Championships today in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, there is a real sense that for Britain's most successful sport at Beijing 2008 the final countdown has begun.
"It's definitely time we started winning," 2008 team pursuit (TP) gold medallist Ed Clancy said. "Perhaps it's a little bit more relaxed than it was at this point pre-Beijing because we've still got to bring Geraint [Thomas] and Bradley Wiggins into the line-up again. But it's a question of whoever's there, you just get on with the job and sod it."
"We'll be pushing for a time without Bradley similar to those we did with him. And you never know, it's unlikely but this [World Championships four] could end up being the Olympic line-up."
Should Britain make the final tonight – in the first Olympic event to be decided in this year's World Championships – Clancy will be the only member of the quartet of British TP riders who took gold in Beijing, one of a staggering haul of seven on the track.
Wiggins and Thomas are both concentrating on the road, while Paul Manning has retired and the 26-year-old Clancy, almost by default, has become team captain.
"It's not something I particularly enjoy," Clancy says. "But I'm a survivor, if you like, and I've certainly got more experience" – which includes two World and two European titles. "In any case I've got my own individual goals, too" – which include a repeat crack at defending his title in the omnium, another of his 2012 objectives "Ultimately, though, I don't want to lose contact with the TP, I've made the team every time for the last four years. It's very easy to lose the omnium. The TP is what pays the bills."
Clancy agrees their main challengers are likely to be the Australians, who inflicted a narrow defeat on the British in last year's World Championships. "They're full of confidence, and have loads of talent, but we're ready to take the fight to them. They'll string together a pretty quick pursuit, but it's good, it keeps pushing us on."
The TP is far from being the only area where, with only six major competitions remaining before London, there is a new sense of urgency.
"There is definitely a sense of the Olympics on the horizon," adds GB sprint coach Iain Dyer. "It's much more of a known quantity than ahead of Beijing, but we can't escape the fact there's been a lot more publicity, and just like in 2007, it's time to perform."
What makes the Olympics even more omnipresent in Apeldoorn this week is that unlike in 2007, this year's World Championships forms part of the qualification process for London, with the team sprint results contributing towards places in all three sprint events.
"As long as we make the top four," Dyer says – easier said than done, but Britain took bronze in 2010's World Championships in the men's event and fourth in the women's – "that'll keep us with a strong points profile."
With only one place now on offer for each nation in the sprint and keirin at the Olympics, interest will also be high on the battle for supremacy between Sir Chris Hoy and Jason Kenny.
Exactly 12 years his junior – Kenny turns 23 and Hoy 35 today – the Bolton rider ran Hoy closest in the Olympic individual sprint in 2008 and has shown consistently strong form since winning the keirin title at the Europeans Championships last November.
"I'd like to see both guys up there as well as Matt [Crampton] in the sprint, and Ross Edgar for the keirin," Dyer says. "I don't want to talk up any rivalries, but there should be some good battles at this point in the game."Reuse content