Glaetzer headlines Australian track cycling setbacks before worlds

Simon Jones knew everything was going too well and sure enough, after a banner couple of years, the Australian track cycling team has struck major turbulence in the lead in to the world championships.

The Berlin worlds from February 26 to March 1 are their last main competition before the Tokyo Olympics. Jones, Cycling Australia's high performance boss, said a succession of issues had been a good lesson in the resilience they will need at the Olympics.

Matthew Glaetzer is the most recent in a string of Australian track cycling setbacks.Credit:John Veage

The late withdrawals of Matthew Glaetzer and Kelland O'Brien because of injury last week are the most recent in a string of setbacks that have hit the track program. The biggest shocks have been Glaetzer also needing surgery and treatment late last year for thyroid cancer, plus track endurance coach Tim Decker undergoing brain surgery after a bike crash.

Glaetzer's latest problem is a leg injury, unrelated to his cancer scare. Amy Cure, Annette Edmondson, Alex Porter, Kaarle McCulloch and Steph Morton also have suffered injuries since late last year.

"The last few months, we have gone through some challenging times," Jones said. "We had a really good year in 2019 and I was thinking 'bloody hell, this is going a bit too well'. I'm not to put a brave face on it, but I think we've managed it all pretty well. These things build resilience, robustness."

It is also a timely reminder for the track program, given the litany of disasters that marked Australian cycling's Rio campaign. A combination of Great Britain's continued dominance and a series of setbacks meant Australia only managed a silver and a bronze in the sport at the 2016 Olympics.

Australia will defend six world titles at the Berlin worlds and three of them are Olympic events. Despite O'Brien's absence, Australia again will be the team to beat in the men's team pursuit.

The women will defend their team pursuit crown, with Great Britain and the United States certain to challenge hard as the Olympics loom. Given their injury problems, McCulloch and Morton are unlikely to be at their peak as they defend the team sprint crown.

"Do we throw caution and try to peak for Berlin? I don't think we need to," Jones said of the women's team sprint.

Glaetzer's absence further complicates the men's team sprint, where Nathan Hart, Thomas Cornish and Matthew Richardson will compete. They need a big result at the worlds to show Australia should compete in the event in Tokyo.

Jones has made it clear repeatedly that the priority at the Olympics will be medals, preferably gold, rather than just filling berths in events.


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