Wiggins, Aussies target cycling gold at Commonwealth Games

Alistair Watson

Glasgow (AFP) - Cycling gets under way at the Commonwealth Games on Thursday with a large number of world class riders spread across track, road, mountain bike and the new games discipline of para-cycling.

Track cycling will be one of the highest standard competitions held at Glasgow with world championship level fields in many of the events.

Some of the world’s fastest men and women on two wheels will line up on the 250m track at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome to pedal for individual and team supremacy.

Although six-time Olympic champion Sir Chris Hoy will not compete on the track that bears his name, there will be plenty of top class competitors on display in the 17 events the venue plays host to.

The Glasgow Games were given a boost when England’s Bradley Wiggins announced he will compete in the track and road events.

The 2012 Tour de France winner and Olympic champion will be the favourite to win his first ever Commonwealth Games gold medal in the road time trial.

Wiggins hasn’t competed on the track since 2008 but will have a point to prove in the individual and team pursuit events.

England's golden couple Jason Kenny and Laura Trott will prove hard to beat on the track.

Double Olympic champion and recently crowned 2014 British National Road Race champion Trott will be targeting the endurance track events, including the individual pursuit, points and scratch races.

Olympic champions Dani King, Joanna Rowsell, Ed Clancy, Steven Burke and Philip Hindes are also in England’s line-up.

Hoping to make headlines in the endurance events will be Scotland’s Katie Archibald, who in recent months has gone from virtual unknown to becoming a world and European champion in the team pursuit.

The 20-year-old is also expected to compete in the time trial and road race, giving her five medal opportunities.

Australia dominated the cycling events at the Dehli Games in 2010, taking 14 gold medals from 18 events.

- Meares looks strong -

Four-time track cycling world champion Anna Meares will be amongst one of the favourites to retain her 500m time trial and individual pursuit titles.

The 30-year-old Australian is a reigning Olympic and triple Commonwealth Games gold medallist and will compete in the sprint events.

One of her main challengers could be team-mate Steph Morton, who has previously found success at the Paralympics, winning gold as a sighted guide in London in 2012,

New Zealand's men will be hoping to break a 12-year gold medal drought.

One of the favourites to bring this run to an end for the Kiwis is Simon van Velthooven, who has a good chance in the keirin, in which he won Olympic bronze in 2012.

The New Zealander’s time trial form is also strong and he is rated as one of the top prospects for gold.

In the individual pursuit veteran Marc Ryan remains a quality performer shown by his bronze in the World Championships in Colombia in February and he is likely to be joined by New Zealand youngsters Patrick Bevin and Dylan Kennett who are tipped as ones to watch.

The road Time Trials take place on July 31, only four days after the Tour de France ends, and the Road Race is on August 3.

The proximity to the Tour predictably has impacted on who will compete in the men's road race.

However, Australia will still have plenty of muscle to flex in the men's cycling event, despite missing several big names.

Rising star Caleb Ewan, lead-out specialist Mark Renshaw and all-rounder Simon Clarke will be the main riders in the seven-man team.

England’s Lizzie Armistead gained a silver in the women’s Road Race at the London Olympics in 2012 and will be wanting to go one better in Glasgow over the same course she claimed the British National Road Race title in 2013.

Posing a threat to Armistead will be New Zealand's Linda Villumsen, who has been consistently winning medals on the road for the past five years.

As the reigning Commonwealth Games time trial champion, Scotland’s David Millar will be looking to defend that title as well as having an eye on capturing a medal in the road race before he closes his career.

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