Road cycling's world championships kick off today with Great Britain's first big prospect of striking gold coming as soon as the women's individual time trial this afternoon.
Londoner Emma Pooley has already won a silver medal in the same event in the 2008 Olympics on a hilly, technical course and will be gunning to go one better on Mendrisio's relatively straightforward 26.8km circuit.
"Physically I've felt in better shape than last year, and I've moved forward in general as well. I've been at the right places in the races this season," said Pooley, who is currently in her first year as a professional with the Cervelo team.
This is a major understatement. The 26-year-old has notched up two wins in the World Cup series – second only in prestige to the world championships – as well as the women's Tour de France and the British national time trial championships.
Based in Zurich, where she is completing a PhD in soil engineering, Pooley is taking her latest challenge very seriously, reconnoitering the time trial course in a recent British training camp.
Best known as a climber, Pooley says: "I'm looking forward to the time trial because everyone says it's not for me. I don't like the implication that I only got a medal in Beijing because it was a certain kind of course and I want the chance to prove myself on flatter terrain, too."
Eighth in the last two world championships time trials, this time round Pooley is setting her sights far higher. "British Cycling aims for medals in everything. If you don't have a chance of a medal in either event there is no point in doing the worlds," she says adamantly.
Britain's other participant in the women's time trial, Northern Ireland's Wendy Houvenaghel, is better known for her results inside the velodrome. The 34-year-old secured silver in the individual pursuit at Beijing and gold in the team pursuit in the world championships in Poland last March.
However, a recent silver in the women's national time trials behind Pooley showed Houvenhagel's versatility, and speaking yesterday afternoon, she expressed real conviction that Mendrisio could be a good course for her. "It's the right kind of terrain for me, and a good time trial I did in France recently has made me feel really optimistic. So we'll see what happens," she said.Reuse content