The 2022 world track cycling championships get under way on Wednesday near Paris, with the Netherlands attempting to top the medals table for the fourth time in five years.
Here, AFP Sport takes a look at five things to watch out for this week in France:
Ganna’s bid for sixth world title
— Italian star Filippo Ganna arrives at the Velodrome National fresh from breaking the one-hour world record just three days ago.
The two-time former world time-trial champion posted a new best mark of 56.792km at the Grenchen Velodrome in Switzerland, beating the previous record set by Britain’s Dan Bigham by over a kilometer.
Ganna had endured a disappointing season on the road up until that point and only finished seventh in the road world time trial.
This week, the 26-year-old will be among the favorites as he bids for a fifth individual pursuit gold medal, having surprisingly failed to qualify for last year’s final.
He will also be part of the Italy team pursuing trio trying to defend their title.
Dutch stranglehold on men’s team sprint
— The Netherlands have become track cycling’s powerhouse in recent years, helped by their dominant men’s sprinters.
Led by Harrie Lavreysen, the Dutch have won the last four men’s team sprint titles.
Lavreysen also emerged victorious in the 2019, 2020 and 2021 individual sprint competitions and has two keirin gold medals to boot.
Germany edged the Netherlands off the top of the medals table last year.
Lavreysen, going for his 10th world title, and co will be red-hot favorites to get their country off to a flying start in Wednesday’s team sprint final.
Baker hopes to emulate the Commonwealth double
— Former track cycling giants Australia have failed to win a gold medal at each of the last two worlds, ending the 2021 edition in Roubaix without a medal of any color after sending just five riders because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Aussies also mustered just one bronze at the Tokyo Olympics.
But hopes are high that Georgia Baker can help turn things around after the 28-year-old’s remarkable haul of three gold medals at the Commonwealth Games.
Baker, a 2019 team pursuit world champion, won track titles in the team pursuit and the points race in Birmingham, while also taking gold in the women’s road race.
Road star Kopecky returns to the track
— Belgian Lotte Kopecky has enjoyed a stellar season on the road, winning both the Strade Bianche and Tour of Flanders one-day classics.
Kopecky, who also finished second to Annemiek van Vleuten in the world road race, won points race gold as part of a three-medal haul in Roubaix 12 months ago.
She is expected to line up in three events again this time around.
British Cycling’s deal with Shell
— British Cycling has come under fire in the build-up to the championships after signing a partnership deal with oil giant Shell, claiming it would “help our organization and sport take important steps towards net zero”.
“The idea of Shell helping British Cycling reach net zero is as absurd as beef farmers advising lettuce farmers on how to go vegan,” said Greenpeace UK’s policy director Dr Doug Parr.
“After being booted out of museums and other cultural institutions, Big Oil are looking at sports as the next frontier for their brazen greenwash.”