Track World Cup: Great Britain set for Olympic velodrome test

Great Britain's track cyclists will get a taste of the Olympic experience that awaits them in August when the World Cup gets under way in London this week.

The test event at the Olympic Velodrome will be an early chance to see the likely squads for the 2012 Games.

Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton lead the British team, with Australia expected to challenge strongly.

A total of 340 riders from 48 nations will take part in the first competitive event at the Olympic venue.

It is the fourth and final leg of the World Cup series, which has already visited Kazakhstan, Colombia and China, and Olympic qualifying points are still on offer for those yet to secure their places.

There are also major selection issues to be decided by the British team in the coming months following regulation changes which mean only one competitor from each nation can compete in each event in London.

This means Hoy's hopes of defending all three of his Olympic titles in London could end before the Games if Jason Kenny were to get the individual sprint spot.

Kenny will be awarded the 2011 world champion's rainbow jersey on Thursday's opening night in London after he was promoted from second place following Frenchman Gregory Bauge's anti-doping violation.

Ross Edgar, earlier suggested as a doubt for London's leg of the World Cup series as he recovers from injury, has been named in the British sprint squad and is now likely to form the GB men's sprint team alongside Kenny and Hoy.

"With the Olympics being on that track later in the year, it's obviously going to be important for everyone," said Kenny.

"It would be nice to turn up there in form, be competitive and get stuck into the racing to get a feel for the place."

GB chief Dave Brailsford called the World Cup event a "learning opportunity" ahead of the Games, adding: "We have selected a full-strength squad accordingly."

Australia have stars such as Anna Meares and Jack Bobridge among their line-up and team chief Kevin Tabotta said: "This will be our only opportunity to race on the Olympic Velodrome and familiarise both athletes and staff with the environment ahead of the Games.

"We are on target to qualify the maximum [number of] track places for the Games, so the focus now is to ensure we are in the best possible position to win medals in London."

With Bradley Wiggins opting to focus on road cycling, Geraint Thomas will lead the British men's pursuit squad.

Laura Trott, Dani King and Wendy Houvenaghel, who won Britain's only world title last year - until Kenny's retrospective promotion to gold early in January - are reunited alongside Joanna Rowsell in the women's pursuit line-up.

Pendleton and Jess Varnish resume their quest to better Australian rivals Meares and Kaarle McCulloch in the women's sprint events, a contest won in style by Australia at the last World Championships, where Meares picked up gold in the sprint, team sprint and keirin.

Bobridge returns to the Australian men's pursuit team, also world champions, to line up against the British.

Beyond the World Cup, the one remaining major event prior to the Olympics is April's World Championships in Melbourne.

Despite initial suggestions that Britain would fly a weakened team to Australia for the Worlds, plans are now in place for a full GB squad to travel.

"I have a sneaky suspicion the World Championships will probably play a deciding factor [in Olympic selection]," added Kenny.

"It's the last major race before the Olympics and it's the second biggest race we'll do in our lives. I'd imagine that will have quite a big impact on the selection panel and that's what I'm focusing on at the minute."