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Superstars and super Scots will make cycling a big attraction at Glasgow 2014

Every sport suffers when its biggest champion bows out and you would expect Scottish cycling to be diminished by the retirement last year of six-time Olympic gold medallist Sir Chris Hoy.

Katie Archibald is a serious medal contender but she will not be alone in Team Scotland's cycling contingent. Picture: Martin Shields
Katie Archibald is a serious medal contender but she will not be alone in Team Scotland's cycling contingent. Picture: Martin Shields

That is not the case.

In any event, there is no need to worry about a lack of star power at Glasgow. Unlike some of the sports that will be showcased this summer, the velodrome and the roads and tracks of Glasgow will be chock full of some of the world's best.

In Laura Trott and Jason Kenny, England will be bringing two world champions and almost certainly the fastest couple in the world. In Mark Cavendish, Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, you will have two Tour de France champions and the quickest road sprinter on two wheels.

As for the thick-thighed absence of Hoy? It is uncanny how often it happens that, just as one star fades out, another begins to shine - in the case of track cycling in Scotland, the new hope is Katie Archibald.

The 20-year-old from Milngavie caught the eye of the British selectors late last year. She was called up to the team for the world championships in Cali in late March and slotted with apparent ease into the team pursuit squad as they raced to a thrilling gold medal. Only a couple of years after taking up the sport, the former swimmer is a world champion.

And now she is a strong contender for Commonwealth gold. The big question is, in which event? Archibald will ride the points race, scratch race and pursuit on the track, as well as the road race and time trial. All that's missing is the mountain bike race.

But Archibald is far from being the only Scottish medal prospect. From a team of around 30 - easily the largest-ever Scottish cycling contingent, and more than double the size of the team from Manchester 2002 - there is a target, says performance director Gary Coltman, of "three to four medals".

Looking at the likely team, and discounting the fact that Archibald could win that many medals on her own, this could turn out to be a modest aim. In the velodrome the male sprinters will be led by Hoy's heir-in-waiting, Callum Skinner, while Jenny Davis, a silver medallist in the team sprint with Charline Joiner in Delhi in 2010, has qualified to contest the individual sprint.

Joiner, meanwhile, has switched from sprinter to endurance rider. The 26-year-old suffered horrendous injuries, including a broken back, after crashing in Spain in January, which meant three months off road training. But she has made a strong recovery, almost returning to her previous form and putting herself firmly in the frame for selection.

She and Eileen Roe or Kayleigh Brogan can give Archibald strong support in the scratch and points races on the track, and, such are the tactical vagaries of these events, could even benefit from the close marking likely to be given to Archibald and win a medal themselves.

Off-road, Grant Ferguson is a medal prospect in the men's cross country mountain bike race, while on the road David Millar is the defending time trial champion. Millar, who retires at the end of this year, has said that, with Bradley Wiggins down to ride the time trial, he might have a better chance in the road race, on a course that loops around the university and city centre. Millar will be joined on the road by another medal contender, Andy Fenn, with likely support from the consistent Evan Oliphant, the immensely promising Tao Geoghegan Hart, and also the evergreen James McCallum, who will be riding in his fourth Commonwealth Games.

McCallum, the silver medallist in the scratch race in Melbourne in 2006, is well-placed to comment on the changes to the sport in Scotland since his Games debut in Manchester 12 years ago. "It's like night and day," says the 35-year-old.

"Apart from the size of the team, we've got better equipment, our preparation is much better - for the first time we had winter training camps as a team in Girona - and we have an indoor velodrome."

The custom-built Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, which opened in 2012, has already had a positive impact, says McCallum. "There are 200 taking part in the track league and there are riders who have come through only since the velodrome opened. Mark Stewart is a prime example - he was a junior last year and now he's fighting for a place on the team for the Games.

"Before previous games we always had good riders who were obvious picks, but you were kind of looking around for others to support them. This is the first time we've had a pool of riders to pick from."

The indoor facility has made a huge difference, but the process of improvement can be traced back to 2002, says McCallum. "All the momentum we have now really started with the Manchester Commonwealth Games. That was the start of it.

"Chris [Hoy] won his gold medal in the kilo, the boys won a medal in the team sprint as well. Then we had Melbourne, and our most successful Games ever. We didn't do so well in Delhi but there were a lot of factors out of our control," he continues. "Glasgow will be different."

Indeed, McCallum seems more optimistic than the Scottish selectors. "I believe that we'll be in with a shout for a medal in every event we enter. I think that's realistic. The home crowd will make a huge difference. At last year's British road race championship, on the same course as the Games will use, you couldn't go 100 metres without hearing your name.

"It was amazing. It could be the difference between winning a medal or not."

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