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Britain's track cyclists bid to emulate Wiggins

Britain has high hopes of more gold medals on Thursday when the track cycling competition gets underway in the Olympic velodrome, with Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton aiming to emulate the triumph of compatriot Bradley Wiggins on Wednesday.


AFP - Four-time Olympic champion Sir Chris Hoy and sprint queen Victoria Pendleton will aim to boost Britain's flagging gold medal haul when the Olympic track cycling events begin Thursday.

On the opening day of the six-day competition the men's and women's team sprint finals will be contested -- and Britain are among the favourites.

After winning the Tour de France and a fourth Olympic gold, Bradley Wiggins could soon add yet another title to the list. He might not be quite as fond of the next one, though.

Wiggins is widely expected to be awarded a knighthood after Britain’s most decorated Olympian with seven medals following Wednesday’s victory in the men’s time trial. He became the first British cyclist to win the Tour this month as well.

Cyclist Chris Hoy was knighted after winning three gold medals at the Beijing Olympics, and the clamor from fans and cycling officials to turn Wiggins into Sir Brad has already begun.

That’s not necessarily something he wants to be called, though. Wiggins, who comes from a working-class background, said that “as much as it would be an honor to receive something like that, I don’t think I’ll ever use it. I’ll put it in a drawer. I’ll always just be Brad.”

Hoy, who won three golds in Beijing and one in Athens, will not defend his sprint crown from the 2008 Games after the sole spot in track's coveted event went to England's Jason Kenny.

Instead, the 36-year-old Scot takes aim at the three-lap team sprint as well as the keirin, which is held next Tuesday.

German-born teammate Philip Hindes slots in as 'man one', as the starting position is known, with Kenny expected to lead taking Hoy around the second lap before the Scot blitzes his way over the final 250 metres.

Australia beat France by just one thousandth of a second to win gold at the Melbourne world championships in April, but although Hoy expects a tigh battle he says Britain will be at their best since 2008.

"It's going to be very, very close but we're going to be at our best since Beijing," he added. "Since the worlds it's been going really well. We've started making significant strides."

The team sprint is a title the French have coveted for many years.

And for France's Gregory Bauge, who beat Kenny in Melbourne to claim his third world title in the individual sprint, it is time to take it back.

"It will be the chance to put things back in their proper order," Bauge said Monday when asked about his anticipated battle with the British.

Olympic and six-time world sprint champion Pendleton, meanwhile, will look to claim her maiden gold of the Games when the women's two-lap equivalent makes its debut.

Racing alongside Jessica Varnish, the British pair face a similarly tight contest. Australia, Britain and Germany have all set new world records for the two-lap event in recent months.

Pendleton, who like Australian rival Anna Meares is chasing triple gold in the sprint, team sprint and keirin, says she has done everything to be ready for the challenge.

"Who knows how fast everyone else is going to go?" she said.

"But I do feel that physically, for me, knowing my body, I think I've done the most I can do. I've asked a lot, this is what I've got and I'm happy."

On the same day, the men's team pursuit qualifying will be held with performances crucial for securing the top places in the following day's first round and finals.

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