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English cycling hero Jason Queally summed up his sport's approach to Manchester 2002 when he said: "The Commonwealth Games is a world-class event."

And Queally, who won the gold medal in the 1km time trial at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, believes the Games could provide the platform for a future UK Olympic bid. So the stakes are high and there could be no more appropriate venue for the cycling events than the North West region of England, home of the Manchester Velodrome.

The spectacular velodrome has featured strongly in the resurgence of the sport in the UK and provided a training base from where Queally and his fellow challengers launched their bid to conquer the world.

However, cycling has been a key sport at all major Games since it featured in the first modern Olympics at Athens in 1896 when the classic marathon course provided the setting for an 86km road race. Competitors cycled from Athens to Marathon, signed on the dotted line to prove they had completed the first leg of the course, and then headed off back to the Greek capital to complete the race.

The sport has featured at all the subsequent Olympics and every Commonwealth Games since London, 1934. And the 2002 Games will feature 16 events in track and road racing for men and women.

For the first time in the history of the Games, mountain biking make its debut at Manchester 2002. Mountain biking was very much the new kid on the block when the early enthusiasts took to the hills in the sixties and seventies. But with the help of modern bicycle technology, it quickly developed as a competitive sport, too, with the first major races held 30 years ago.

And the sport truly came of age with recognition by the International Cycling Federation in 1990, the year of the first Mountain Biking World Championships in Colorado.

But whether your taste is for high-powered track racing at the Manchester Velodrome or the outdoor life with road racing and mountain biking at Rivington near Bolton, the action will be fast and spectacular. So count yourself in!

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