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Make or break

London could be end of Olympic road for some, says Moore

Richard Moore Posted 15th February 2012 view comments

On the eve of this weekend's World Cup at the new London velodrome Britain's track cyclists were paraded before the press. And it was impossible not to feel a little sympathy for, even share in the anxiety of, a few of them.

Asked if he was disappointed not to be selected for the team sprint, Matt Crampton paused for a heartbeat before replying: "Yes". He managed a brief, nervous laugh. Or, rather, his mouth laughed, his eyes didn't.

Matt Crampton: still in the dark over Olympic dreams

Matt Crampton: still in the dark over Olympic dreams

Ben Swift, meanwhile, looked as though he'd rather be anywhere than sitting beside Peter Kennaugh, Geraint Thomas, Ed Clancy and Steven Burke: the four riders who have been named in the team pursuit squad, with Swift handed the consolation of a ride in the omnium.

Then there was Dani King, who finds herself in a similar position to Swift, omitted from the women's team pursuit, with Laura Trott, Joanna Rowsell and Wendy Houvenaghel getting the nod.

It could all change between now and next month's world championships, and then again between the worlds and the Olympics, but all these riders are now in the realms of what Sir Alex Ferguson once memorably called "squeaky bum time".

Richard Moore
Quotes of the week

It could all change between now and next month's world championships, and then again between the worlds and the Olympics, but all these riders are now in the realms of what Sir Alex Ferguson once memorably called "squeaky bum time."

You have to feel especially for Crampton. Swift is versatile, and has a glittering road career ahead of him. He wants to win an Olympic gold medal, and the team pursuit represents his best chance, but if he goes on to win stages of the Tour de France, or Liège-Bastogne-Liège, then his career will not be defined by what happens - or doesn't happen - in the London velodrome this summer.

King, meanwhile, is young, only 21, and improving rapidly. She's a strong road rider, too, giving her other options. Her future is bright.

But Crampton, as a track sprinter, only has the Olympics.

Unsung star

He is the great unfulfilled talent and unsung star of the men's sprinting team. Now 25, and the European keirin champion, he missed out on the Beijing Olympics despite winning a keirin bronze medal at the 2008 world championships.

He had to watch from home as Hoy won his three gold medals, and Jason Kenny claimed silver behind him in the sprint, with Edgar taking silver in the keirin. Crampton knew how close he was to his team-mates, and therefore how close he would have been to a medal.

Crampton's biggest problem is Hoy. They are similar riders: big and powerful rather than quick and explosive, like Kenny and Edgar. Crampton's best place in the team sprint would be as second or third man - but the same is true of Hoy.

It is Edgar, Kenny and Hoy who will line-up in the team sprint on Friday. Crampton will ride Saturday's keirin and Sunday's sprint in the colours of Sky rather than GB. He might come back into the team sprint line-up for the world championships in Melbourne next month, and he knows that, if he wants to go to the Olympics, he must, because Hoy is the outstanding favourite to claim the single spot in the keirin, with Hoy and Kenny vying for the sole place in the sprint.

Not that you will hear Crampton shouting his name from the rooftops, or bawling and screaming over his omission from the GB squad for this weekend. For as well as a similar build and physiology, Crampton also has Hoy's humility. Which only made his quiet admission of disappointment all the more telling.

"On the other hand," he added, searching for a silver lining, "I can run my own programme in the sprint and keirin, so I'm pretty happy. Yeah, it's good."

Straight choice

But he knows that four into three will not go. For the Olympics, it is likely to come down to a straight choice between him or Edgar, which will pain all those who know both as humble and hardworking, and who both deserve their chance.

But it will hurt the riders even more. Edgar spoke of the misery of being stuck at home while recovering from a recent injury, and of his frustration at people telling him the rest would "do him good."

"If resting was good for you, we'd all just rest," said Edgar. "No one would train!"

Now recovered, Friday's team sprint is Edgar's big chance to prove that he, rather than Crampton, should be the 'third man' in the team. Crampton will be watching from the sidelines, possibly through the cracks in his fingers.

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