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Last Updated: Monday, 30 April 2007, 16:26 GMT 17:26 UK
GB is top cycling nation - King
By Matt Slater

Bradley Wiggins leads the men's pursuit quartet to world gold
Bradley Wiggins leads the men's pursuit quartet to world gold
British Cycling boss Peter King says this country's riders are the best in the world and will be GB's best hopes of Olympic glory in 2008 and beyond.

King told BBC Sport that Britain's fine display at the recent world track championships and continued success elsewhere added up to top status.

"We were number one in 2005 and will be again this year," said King.

"We are the most professional team in cycling and we are the most professional Olympic sport in Britain."

BC's chief executive was in London on Thursday for the media launch of the Mountain Bike &Trials World Championships, which are coming to these shores for the first time in September.

Matt Slater
Fort William will host the 3-9 September event, which will see 700 of the world's top riders gather in the Highlands to contest a total of 19 world championship titles.

The day the "Fort Bill" extravaganza finishes, the Tour of Britain, now extended to seven days, starts in London. With the Tour de France also starting in the capital for the first time, 2007 is without doubt the most exciting year in British cycling history.

"Cycling in this country is massively on the up," said King.

"On the one hand you have the whole green agenda, our transport problems and the new focus on public health and fitness. They are driving participation levels up and the sport is booming.

Nicole Cooke
At only 24, Cooke is already the best female road racer in the world
"And on the other hand you have our huge success at elite level, across a range of disciplines, not just the track. Everything is coming together at the same time.

"Cycling may be the most popular or second most popular sport in other countries but it probably peaked about 20 years ago there.

"A decade ago the British Cycling Federation, as we were, was struggling a bit and we had only 13,000 members. We now have more than 20,000. That is an increase of 50% - which other sport in this country can match that?

"And in terms of the Olympics most of the other sports just aren't winning things, particularly athletics and swimming.

"OK, rowing and sailing are doing well, but they are hardly the most accessible or exciting of sports are they? Cycling has always been a sport for everybody, perhaps more now than ever before."

King's reference to rowing and sailing is interesting as they are the other two leading Olympic sports in which Britain has a similar global standing to cycling. And like cycling, they are the "minority sports" that have spent 10 years of National Lottery funding most wisely.

Roger Hammond
A 2006 Tour of Britain stage winner, Hammond has had a fine spring
The British Olympic Association's annual progress report measures the nation's results throughout the year to work out where GB would finish in a hypothetical medal table. Last year's report listed British rowing and sailing at number two in their respective rankings.

Cycling, however, had slipped from number one in 2005 to 12th in 2006, although King said that was because efforts had been focused on the Commonwealth Games.

But the first four months of 2007 have been a very different story and King said the number one ranking is now almost guaranteed.

The British track team were in commanding form in Mallorca last month, winning 11 medals from 17 events, prompting International Cycling Union boss Pat McQuaid to ask BC president Brian Cookson if there was "any chance you could let another country win something?"

But that success only tells part of the story. Whilst Britain's track stars were sweeping all before them, the likes of Mark Cavendish and Roger Hammond were enjoying a superb run of results on the road in Europe.

Victoria Pendleton and Shanaze Reade
Track star Pendleton teamed up with BMX champ Reade in Mallorca
And Nicole Cooke's domination of women's road racing has reached Tiger Woods levels - the Welsh star not winning an event is now a story.

But King was quick to point out that Britain's prowess extended beyond the more traditional cycling disciplines.

The 18-year-old Shanaze Reade, who won a team sprint gold with Victoria Pendleton on her track debut in Mallorca, is a three-time world BMX champion and will be among the favourites when that sport makes its Olympic bow in Beijing. And cross country rider Liam Killeen, the Commonwealth champion, has a superb chance of success in Fort William and Beijing.

The biggest disappointment, however, is that Killeen will not be joined in China by more British mountain bike talent. The current men's and women's UCI Downhill World Cup champions are both British, Steve Peat and Tracey Moseley, with junior stars also in the pipeline.

"It's a shame the downhillers aren't in the Olympics. But these things take time. We will just have to convince the IOC that the downhill is more exciting than sports like rowing," said King, with a grin befitting a man involved with Britain's most successful sport.

Cavendish claims Belgian success
18 Apr 07 |  Cycling
Hammond takes second in Belgium
11 Apr 07 |  Cycling
Cooke powers to Belgium victory
08 Apr 07 |  Cycling
Pendleton sets sights on Beijing
03 Apr 07 |  Cycling
Cooke climbs to victory in Italy
01 Apr 07 |  Cycling
Pendleton sprints to world gold
31 Mar 07 |  Cycling
Cycling sets gold standard
12 Mar 07 |  Cycling
GB trio victorious in Manchester
23 Feb 07 |  Cycling
Cooke crowned World Cup champion
03 Sep 06 |  Cycling

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