Rowsell backs Aussies, Kiwis

England track rider Erick Rowsell (Getty)

England cyclist Erick Rowsell sees Australia and New Zealand as the teams to beat in the Commonwealth Games despite a number of high-profile pull-outs.

The 20-year-old former British junior road racing champion's warning followed the withdrawal Sunday of Australian star cyclist Mark Renshaw for health reasons.

Renshaw's teammate Richie Porte was also forced out because of contract commitments while New Zealand road cyclist Greg Henderson stayed away over concerns about health and security.

"The Aussies and Kiwis are the ones to watch," Rowsell said. "A few big names have dropped out but there's still a high level of competition. They're all still world class."

Rowsell, the brother of British world pursuit champion Joanna Rowsell, played down his own medal prospects after a work-out at the Indira Gandhi velodrome in New Delhi.

"I'm more looking to beat my personal bests," he said. "Not sure about a medal -- I'm here for the experience."

Rowsell competes in the individual pursuit Tuesday, then the 40 kilometre points race and 20 kilometre scratch later in the week.

Cycling will feature 14 track events and two road events, with 30 medals up for grabs for the men and 24 for the women.

England go into the road events with a team including young world class stars Lizzie Armitstead and Alex Dowsett.

They line-up with experienced riders such as Jeremy Hunt, Russell Downing and Emma Pooley, who arrives fresh from winning the world time trial title in Australia.

But the International Cycling Union's decision to use November's European Championships as a qualifier for the 2012 Olympics has meant some top names, including Olympic champions Victoria Pendleton and Chris Hoy, will also be absent.

"Preparations are going well," Rowsell said. "We were in the Manchester Velodrome practising a couple of weeks ago and I've been doing the national championships, so I'm looking forward to going out there and doing the business."

Seven world champions, led by 2004 Olympic and reigning Commonwealth Games champion Anna Meares, have been named in the Australian team.

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