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Olympic cyclists face chances and challenges

(Chinadaily.com.cn)

09:33, July 03, 2012

There will be more medal chances, but also challenges for the Chinese cycling team in London.

The Chinese riders could end up medal-less despite more of their favorite events at this year's Games, said the team's leader.

With a relatively strong roster in the women's short-distance track events, Team China should be happy to see the keirin, team sprint and team pursuit, added to the London schedule.

However, the squad appears more concerned than excited.

"The short-track events are our best hopes and we have more events to chase for medals this time around in comparison to Beijing," team leader Song Xiang said. "But we have to face very strong opponents and our talent pool has not improved as fast as we would have liked."

Among China's 12 riders, who have qualified in 11 different categories in the road, track and mountain events, short-track specialist Guo Shuang is the team's main title contender.

The 26-year-old claimed a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics' only short-track event, the individual pursuit, in 2008 and bagged a title in the keirin at the 2009 World Championships.

Guo remains the country's best medal hope, but the European powerhouses have busily built up deep rosters in the short races.

Host Britain, who claimed seven titles out of 10 at the velodrome in Beijing, boasts a seasoned line-up that includes sprint gold medalist Victoria Pendleton.

Australia's two-time Olympian Anna Meares, the 2004 Athens Games' 500 meter time trial winner, will lead a strong Aussie squad as well.

The Chinese female riders have improved their skills and endurance under the guidance of French coach Daniel Morelon since coming together in 2009.

Still, the young team lags behind its opponents in experience and strength, said Song.

"Although we have improved they (Britain, Australia and Germany) are rocketing. A lot of world records fell under their wheels and the gap is growing.

"To compete in a place where the crowd will be chanting for (Britain) will be extremely tough for us. Anyway, we will fight for the best results we can possibly get."

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