Ian Chadband / AAP News
Georgia Baker has hailed “a new era in cycling” as Australia’s young, vibrant track team prepare to launch their Commonwealth Games golden assault at London’s old Olympic velodrome.
Baker, an experienced rider who will target medals on both the track and the road over the next 10 days, reckons the squad at the Lee Valley VeloPark is in shape to protect a proud record.
Australia’s track outfits have been the leading team at the last seven games, stretching back to Victoria in 1994, and Baker fancies the 2022 squad, despite the presence of some greenhorns, will continue that sequence.
Tasmanian Baker was in Tokyo with the team that endured a torrid Olympics, picking up only one bronze medal on the track, but she says those wretched memories have been consigned to history.
“Everyone’s kind of put that behind them now. I think you have to,” Baker said on Thursday, talking at the venue which staged the 2012 Olympics.
“It’s been a year now (since Tokyo) – it feels like a couple – but it’s not positive to dwell on that.
“There’s real good energy in the team, everyone’s super-keen and eager – I feel old now.
“It’s definitely a young and fresh team, they’re very, very talented as well, so it’s great, like the new era of (Australian) cycling.”
Baker will help kick off that era in the women’s team pursuit, one of a series of events on the opening day of the program that the Australians are quietly confident will result in gold.
The men’s team sprint will be another event where Leigh Hoffmann, Matt Richardson and Matt Glaetzer will be hot favourites to take the title.
Glaetzer reckons he’s the “old dog” of the team but his teammates believe he’s still got plenty of bites, even if Richardson is now considered to be a huge threat to his sprint ambitions as the Adelaide stalwart goes for a fourth Commonwealth gold.
Three-time Olympian Glaetzer, 29, who overcame thyroid cancer and a torn calf muscle to compete in Tokyo, attracts nothing but admiration from his colleagues.
“He’s just a machine. He picks himself up and goes again; he’s incredible,” said 23-year-old national pursuit champion Conor Leahy, one of the new brigade who looks a good bet to pick up titles in both the individual and team pursuits.
“I’ve only known him for a little bit because I’ve only just pushed into the team in the last year or so – but he’s awesome, super-cool.
“You can never count him out – he’s always super-impressive.”
Glaetzer is thrilled to be back in the arena where he competed in his first Olympics as a wide-eyed teenager.
“I was 13 when the Games were here – I wasn’t even riding bikes then,” noted an impressed Leahy.