The second round of the Track World Cup is nigh, beginning in Melbourne
on Thursday. But unless you were going, you'd barely know it was on.
Outside of the Olympics and the European Six-Day amphitheatre, publicity for world-class track events is given short shrift to our more familiar, bigger budget road scene. As such, interest tends to be commensurate with what promoters put in.
Compared to Australia, the situation in the US is far worse. The world's third-most populous country seems to care little about their relative weakness on the boards Ã¢â¬â men like Taylor Phinney aside Ã¢â¬â nor that they do not hold a round of the Track World Cup, for they boast the world's most popular bike rider whose fans make a straightforward connection between him and the world's most popular bike race, which he'd like to win an eighth time. As if seven on the trot hasn't set the bar out of everyone's reach.
But in Great Britain, cycling Ã¢â¬â in all its forms Ã¢â¬â appears to be followed with equal fervour. Last year, they kicked butt in Beijing's Laoshan Velodrome, causing their competitors to go cataleptic. In pursuit prodigy Bradley Wiggins, they now have a bona fide Tour de France contender, as well as the world's quickest man on two wheels, Mark Cavendish Ã¢â¬â another graduate of the oval track Ã¢â¬â whose green jersey aspirations are only a matter of when, rather than if. Their mountain-bikers and BMXers aren't half-bad, either.
Armed with a monstrous budget, top-notch coaches and training facilities, not to mention the 2012 Olympics in their own backyard and a London Lord Mayor who rides his bike to work each day, things don't look like letting up.
That is why we must support our cyclists in all their forms.
Also, we do not know where our next Tour de France star, world champion, or Olympic gold medallist will come from. If our eyes are glued only to the Tour, we may not be encouraging our next Cadel Evans or Robbie McEwen or Stuart O'Grady Ã¢â¬â none of whom began on the road Ã¢â¬â to take up the sport.
Furthermore, if our all-round competitiveness wanes, as it has begun to do, it provides another reason for the federal government not to support cycling to the extent that it needs.
Currently, the federal Minister for Sport, Kate Ellis, is reviewing recommendations from the year-long Crawford review, where it is suggested that the current broad-range funding approach is too costly, and that funding be rationed to a handful of prominent, medal-winning sports.
It is understood this includes cycling, as well as swimming, track and field, and rowing.
But if cycling were to lose the stature it has worked so hard to achieve on the world stage, in years to come, the sport may find itself in a bit of a pickle.