Experimental team pursuit line-up not expecting to defend title, says Steven Burke

By Matt Westby.   Last Updated: 19/02/13 9:40pm

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Steven Burke is one of the older heads in the British team pursuit squad despite being only 24

Steven Burke is one of the older heads in the British team pursuit squad despite being only 24

Steven Burke has warned Great Britain are not expecting to retain their world team pursuit title in Minsk this week, despite being given a "massive" boost by the return of Ed Clancy.

Clancy has rejoined the squad after an unsuccessful attempt to win a place in the team sprint trio and will now be the most senior member of an otherwise youthful pursuit line-up.

The team is entering into a period of transition after two of the four riders who claimed Olympic gold in London last summer - Geraint Thomas and Peter Kennaugh - left to concentrate on road racing careers with Team Sky.

"Going on our form at the moment, we are capable of a medal. We are not expecting to defend our title."
Steven Burke

Up-and-coming young prospects such as 20-year-old Sam Harrison and 19-year-old Jon Dibben have been drafted in as replacements as British Cycling coaches look to blood the next generation of riders ahead of the 2016 Rio Games.

Burke, who was in the 2012 gold medal-winning team, is back in the squad after a break to add experience, but insists expectations must be tempered in Minsk with such a youthful squad.

"It's the first year of the new Olympic cycle heading for Rio and we are not expecting too much really," the 24-year-old said. "It's about development this year.

"We have got two young guys coming into the team pursuit team with Sam Harrison and Jon Dibben, so it will give us opportunity to try out different line-ups and strategies and see what we have got going towards Rio.

"Going on our form at the moment, we are capable of a medal. We are not expecting to defend our title, but we will give it a crack, 100 per cent, that's for sure."

'Impressive as ever'

Despite ruling out back-to-back team pursuit world titles, Burke is confident having Clancy on the start line will improve the squad's performance in Belarus and feels the two-time Olympic champion's return also bodes well for future competitions.

He added: "He has been our captain for the last few years and it is always great to have him in the team.

"He is probably the best team pursuiter in the world, so it gives us a big advantage and more chance to win the world championship this year.

"He started team pursuit training [earlier this month] and he has got back into the swing of things really well and has been as impressive as ever.

"It's great for not only these worlds this year, but also the Commonwealth Games next year, because I think we have got a good chance with the English team next year. So it is always massive to have him back."

Britain are not the only nation looking to nurture young talent in Minsk, as perennial rivals Australia are also going through a generation change and have named an equally inexperienced squad.

Next generation

With the best two teams consequently brought down a level, Burke believes as many as five teams have a chance of winning gold.

"The Aussies, looking at their team going into the worlds, they have got the same policy as us and are trying young riders out as well," he explained.

"Two of their best riders aren't riding, Jack Bobridge and Rohan Dennis, who were in the Olympic team but are now concentrating on the road.

"It's like us with no Pete Kennaugh and Geraint Thomas, so it is a bit of a mixture of experience and youth in both teams.

"The Danes have been looking strong. They were strong at the world cup last year and they put in a good performance with their young team.

"The Russians are always there or thereabouts, so that is why I think it will be close and be between four or five teams."

The world championships take place from Wednesday, February 20, to Sunday, February 24.

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