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Merk only Swiss at track cycling championships

Switzerland will be represented by just one rider when the world track cycling championships get underway in the English city of Manchester on Wednesday.

Patrick Merk will be the only cyclist flying the Swiss flag, following the withdrawals of Olympic cyclists Bruno Risi, Kurt Betschart and Franco Marvulli.

A knee injury ended Risi’s hopes of defending the points race world championship title that he won in Berlin last year. Betschart was then forced to pull out, since he was due to be partnered by Risi in the Madison event.

Marvulli meanwhile was expected to compete in both the individual pursuit and the points race, but an illness prevented him from flying to England.

With Merk’s only event, the one-kilometre time trial, scheduled to take place on the first day of competition, Swiss interest in the championships is not likely to last long.

Merk’s medal chances are not thought to be great either. Both he and his coach are expected to be looking for a place in the top 10.

Fans hoping to see the top names in track cycling are also set for a disappointment with many other countries under-represented in Manchester.

As well as the Sydney Olympics, this year’s gruelling track cycling season has seen world cup events staged across three continents. A combination of exhaustion and illness has led to the withdrawals of Olympic gold medallists Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel, Félicia Ballanger, Marty Nothstein, Florian Rousseau and Robert Bartko.

With the Manchester line-up so depleted, the greatest point of interest is expected to be an attempt by British cyclist Chris Boardman to break the world hour record.

Boardman is seeking to redress a controversial decision by cycling’s governing body, the UCI, not to recognise records set on ‘non-traditional’ bikes. Having seen his record of more than 56 kilometres stripped as a result of the UCI decision, Boardman will on Friday attempt to set a new record using a ‘traditional’ bike.

The record he has to beat is the 49.4 kilometre mark set by Eddy Merckx in 1972, the last to be recognised by the UCI.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR