Great Britain – for so long one of cycling’s poor relations, the quaint amateurs from across the water next to the sleek professionals of continental Europe – face a new challenge as they prepare for the start of the track World Championships in Manchester.

Where previously they had been also-rans to the French, Italians, Belgians and Germans, and where the gold medal won by Jason Queally at the Sydney Olympics seemed like a minor miracle, now the battle is in squashing expectations.

And, after last year’s Worlds brought seven gold medals, a sense of public deflation will be hard to avoid unless the likes of Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins and Victoria Pendleton achieve something similar on home timber.

“It’s a new challenge for us, having to manage expectations externally,” admitted performance director Dave Brailsford.

victoria_pendleton.jpgStarting from Wednesday and going on until Sunday, British spectators – some seeing a cycling contest for the first time – will file into the National Velodrome, comfortably expecting to see local boys and girls do well.

But, as much as the sport’s administrators are hoping for a publicity boost for cycling, for Brailsford the next five days are just one step of many on the road to Beijing.

“We want to be on top for the Olympics,” he added. “We’ve got a clear plan and we know what our strategy is for this year.

“And, if some people think we just need to turn up to win, they’ll get a shock.”

It is a view echoed by Hoy, although he will be trying to win a mere three golds this week.

“It’s important for cycling in his country that we do well – and for ourselves – but it’s not the be-all and end-all,” said the Scot.