The second most important festival of sports — for Commonwealth countries at least — kicks off on April 4 when more than 5,000 athletes drawn from 71 territories with a combined population of 2.1 billion walk into the Carrara Stadium in Queensland, Australia for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
But while there will be 275 events across 19 different sports taking place, we’re only really interested in one: cycling. So here’s all you need to know.
(Header image credit: Kgbo)
Before we go any further, let’s have a look at when the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games’s pedal-powered events are taking place. Below is a brief outline of which days to tune in to the BBC’s official Commonwealth Games coverage. For more detailed information about the schedule — such as which track events are taking place on which days and at what times — Australian website The Roar has a guide here.
April 4 — Opening Ceremony (Carrara Stadium)
April 5, 6, 7, 8 — Track Cycling (Anna Meares Velodrome)
April 10 — Road Cycling: Men’s and Women’s Individual Time Trials (Currumbin Beachfront)
April 12 — Mountain Biking: Men’s and Women’s XC (Nerang Mountain Bike Trails)
April 14 — Road Cycling: Men’s and Women’s Road Races (Currumbin Beachfront)
April 15 — Closing Ceremony (Carrara Stadium)
Names to (not) look out for
So we know when the events are on, but which riders should we be expecting to see on the podiums? Actually, it’s not as simple as it sounds and, in the road cycling events particularly, it might be a case of learning some new names.
Quite aside from his ongoing salbutamol case, Tour de France champion Chris Froome was never planning to compete at the Commonwealth Games as he would prefer to focus on the Giro d’Italia. And it’s a similar situation for 2014 Commonwealth Games road race champion Geraint Thomas and 2014 Games time trial champ Alex Dowsett, both of whom have other pro team priorities .
The women’s events also have some big names missing, albeit for very different reasons. Olympic track star Laura Kenny is only just coming back to fitness after giving birth to baby Albert last year, so won’t be competing. And 2014 Commonwealth road race champ Lizzie Deignan won’t be there either as she is also preparing for possibly a greater challenge: on March 14 Lizzie and husband Philip announced they were also expecting their first child.
Who needs home advantage
In big sporting events, the benefit of being a host nation has been well-established — Team GB’s performance at the London Olympics being a case in point. But when it comes to Commonwealth Games cycling, the Australians really don’t need any help and are by far the biggest winners of medals with 209, almost double second-place England’s tally of 108. When it comes to gold medals, Aussies have claimed three times more than their nearest rivals, with 96 golds to England’s 32.
In terms of other British nations, Scotland sits fifth on the all-time cycling medal table with 18 medals in total and five golds; Wales is sixth with 16 medals of which three are gold; and Northern Ireland is 11th with four medals and no golds. Perhaps the biggest surprise, though, is that the little Isle of Man lies ninth overall with five medals, two of which are gold. And that’s at least in part thanks to…
Will Cav make it there in one piece?
While other household names may be absent, one big-name rider who is definitely focused on competing at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games is Mark Cavendish. The ‘Manx Missile’ has stated he wants to lead out the Isle of Man team for probably one of the last times at a major championships. To be honest, Cav will be happy just to make it there in one piece as his participation has been put in jeopardy multiple times already this season with nasty crashes in the Abu Dhabi, Tirreno-Adriatico and most recently, Milan San Remo.
Mountain biking: can anyone beat Canada’s women?
Mountain biking, in the form of cross-country racing, has only been a part of three Commonwealth Games: Manchester in 2002; Melbourne in 2006; and Glasgow in 2014. But it probably comes as no surprise to discover that Canada has featured large in the MTB winners’ tables, with eight medals from an potential total of 18. Even more noteworthy is the fact that Canadian women have taken the gold at every single Commonwealth Games mountain bike cross-country event so far: Chrissy Redden in 2002; Marie-Hélène Prémont in 2006; and Catharine Prendel in 2014.
Sibling rivalry: Scotland’s Archibalds versus Australia’s Edmondsons
Scotland and Australia have at least one thing in common at this year’s Commonwealth Games: both nations have a pair of male/female siblings in their cycling teams. Olympic team pursuit gold medallist Katie Archibald will be joined in Team Scotland by her brother John, who recently won three medals at the British track championships. Meanwhile, Australia has the Edmondsons: reigning Commonwealth Games scratch race champion Annette, and her brother, current Australian road race champion and member of the 2014 Commonwealth gold-winning team pursuit squad, Alex.
The Anna Meares Velodrome
Following in the footsteps of Glasgow, which named its brand-new Commonwealth Games velodrome after some fella called Hoy, the Gold Coast Games will also have a freshly-built track facility, also named after a local and world legend. Queensland’s new $59 million (Australian dollars) Anna Meares Velodrome features an international competition standard 250 metre timber cycling track and honours one of the greatest female cyclists of all time. During her career Anna Meares won six Olympic medals, including two golds, across four different Olympiads; 11 world championship titles; and most importantly in this context, eight Commonwealth medals including five golds.
To find out more about all the action at the Anna Meares velodrome — and the other Commonwealth Games cycling venues — visit the official Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games here.