Trott eyes team pursuit title
Laura Trott heads to the Track Cycling World Championships in Minsk seeking to add to her three rainbow jerseys.
With all Dave Brailsford's talk of a changing of the guard and leaving the joys of the past behind, Trott could be mistaken as a wily veteran of the Great Britain team.
The double Olympic champion is not 21 until April, yet she travelled to Belarus seeking to add to her three rainbow jerseys won in the past two years.
Her wins in Apeldoorn and Melbourne came as part of the search for the ultimate prize and, with team pursuit and omnium gold in London achieved, Trott must refocus on the first World Championships of a new Olympic cycle ahead of the Rio de Janeiro Games of 2016.
"This year doesn't really mean that much in terms of the bigger picture, but to me I guess it does because I do want to win," Trott said.
"They say you don't really peak until 25 or 26 if you are a woman, and even maybe a bit older than that on the track.
"Wendy Houvenaghel was on our team last year and she was 36. Rebecca Romero stayed around up until two years ago. So we should still get stronger and better."
Trott was victorious on her post-London 2012 return in Glasgow last November, but the expectation for what was essentially a low-key meeting took her by surprise and gave her a taste of the pressures heaped on the likes of Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton in recent years.
With Pendleton retired and six-time Olympic champion Hoy, who turns 37 next month, on a sabbatical as he weighs up his future, Trott and her boyfriend Jason Kenny assume the mantle of team figureheads in Minsk, along with Ed Clancy.
The 16-rider squad features six Olympic champions and six riders making their debuts at a senior World Championships.
There are parallels with Pruszkow in 2009, the first World Championships following Britain's seven titles from 10 events at the Beijing Olympics; a haul matched in London.
The British team in 2009 featured Mark Cavendish, fresh from winning the Milan-San Remo Classic, and won just two gold medals, but the core group went on to London and great success.
Pendleton was the only individual Olympic champion present in Poland and won the women's sprint, amid suggestions, which became reality later that year, of gender parity in a much-changed 2012 Games track programme.
Four years on one of the similarities is the meddling of the International Cycling Union in the track disciplines, with Trott critical of the decision to bring the three-woman, three-kilometre up to four riders and 4km.
Britain, with the depth of talent available, will not be adversely affected, but it will diminish the standard of the competition, Trott argues.
She hopes to extend Britain's rich history in the 3km team pursuit before the change takes place with a fifth title in six years.
"The team pursuit is at the end of an era, so it would be nice to win it and finish it there," she said.
Lizzie Armitstead, the host nation's first medallist of London 2012 in the women's road race, was part of Britain's team in Pruszkow, winning gold alongside Joanna Rowsell and Houvenaghel.
Rowsell, like Armitstead, is concentrating on the road this season, and her place in the line up is taken by Elinor Barker, one of a number of prodigious talents with Rio in their sights. Barker has had to balance her training with school work, but expectations are measured too, given Dani King, Trott and Rowsell clocked six successive world records in claiming world and Olympic gold in 2012.
Due to a combination of wintry weather and training, the 18-year-old A Level student from Cardiff has spent just two days at school in 2013.
"This year, I have pretty much taught myself," she said.
"I think my grades are slipping a little bit, but I am trying my hardest to keep them up there as well as do my best in cycling.
"I am definitely putting myself under pressure. I might as well aim high to do the very best I can rather than sort of coasting through."
The women's team pursuit will headline Thursday's second day of competition, with the corresponding men's event the day one highlight.
Olympic champions Clancy and Steven Burke, 2012 world champion Andy Tennant and Sam Harrison will ride, with debutant Jon Dibben in reserve.
Clancy and Burke were not in the line-up in Glasgow in November, when a young group crashed in qualifying, and will be keen to defend the rainbow jerseys won last April in Australia.
Other events on the opening day are the women's team sprint, featuring Becky James and Vicky Williamson, and the men's one-kilometre time-trial, with Briton Kian Emadi, plus the women's individual pursuit.