The switch from a Winter season to a Summer one has meant that track cycling is one of the few sports not to have lost a World Championships to the pandemic – although the venue has been switched from Ashgabat in Turkmenistan to the (indoor!) Stab Veldodrome in Roubaix, close to and Lille and the French/Belgian border.
Not that the sport escaped unscathed. There were no Asian or Oceania regional Championships and there was no US team at the Pan American Championships. The opening round of the Track Nations Cup at Newport in South Wales was lost and the attendance at the three rounds which did go ahead – in Hong Kong, St Petersburg in Russia and Cali in Colombia – were sparsely attended.
And then the events came thick and fast with the delayed 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, the European Championships in Grenchen and now, at last, the Worlds.
The first World Championships after the Olympics is often a chance for teams to try out new riders at the beginning of a four-year Olympic cycle and for the medalists to take a well-earned rest. This year is a little different – first, there are only just over two and half years until Paris 2024. Second, Roubaix comes so hard on the heels of both Tokyo and Grenchen that many of the riders have very very little chance to recover. And, finally, Covid travel restrictions – particularly in Australia and New Zealand – means that some nations are only sending their European-based endurance riders.
Despite that, we do have the reigning World Champions in every discipline except the Women’s Individual (Chloé Dygert) and Team (USA) Pursuit and the Women’s Points Race (Elinor Barker). Oh – and the Elimination – which appears as an individual event for the first time.
We do have some glimpses of who’s on form with three major competitions in the last three months, but we don’t know how much of that will carry over to this week.
The Championships start on Wednesday with the Qualifying for the Women’s Team Pursuit. As well as the Olympic and European Champions Germany, there’s a strong Italian Team and an Irish squad that pipped Great Britain to the Bronze in Grenchen. Colombia are the form team from the Americas – in this and several other disciplines – and newcomers Nigeria will be the second of the nine teams out of the gate.
The Men’s Team Pursuit gets slightly further on Day 1, with Qualifying in the afternoon and the First Round in the evening. The big duel will be between European and reigning World Champions Denmark and Olympic Gold medallists Italy, but Switzerland performed well in front of their home crowd in the Europeans. Great Britain and Pan Am Champions Colombia should also be in the mix.
It’s hard to look beyond Scot Katie Archibald for the Women’s Scratch Race, but Amber Joseph – who we’ve been reporting on since she was a youth rider at Reading Track League – is the current Pan American Champion for Barbados.
The Women’s Sprint competitions kick-off, too, with the Team Sprint, which – along with the Men’s competition – will be concluded on the opening night. China hasn’t sent any riders to Roubaix, so the Olympic Champions won’t be there but runners-up Germany and Bronze medalists Russia took those spots in the new three-rider format – behind the Netherlands – at Grenchen.
The Men’s competition is probably the closest there is to a safe bet all week with the strength in depth in the Dutch squad. The Netherlands are reigning World, Olympic and European Champions, with France, Great Britain and Poland in the mix for the Silver.
All the evening sessions will be covered live in the UK on Eurosport. The BBC’s coverage is a little more complicated!
Wednesday 20 October
17:30-20:50 – BBC Red Button, BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport website & app
Thursday 21 October
15:00-16:45 – BBC Two
17:30-20:55 – BBC Four (from 19:00), BBC Red Button, BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport website & app
Friday 22 October
17:30-21:15 – BBC Red Button, BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport website & app
Saturday 23 October
16:20-20:00 – BBC Red Button, BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport website & app
Sunday 24 October
12:30-16:00 – BBC Two
12:50-16:15 – BBC Red Button
11:50-16:15 – BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport website & app