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Cycling president McQuaid sees Olympic stars aligning for British riders Wiggins, Cavendish

07/25/2012 06:09 EDT | Updated 09/24/2012 05:12 EDT
LONDON - With Britain's newest sporting heroes in action, cycling's top official believes "the stars have aligned" for the surging home team to give the London Olympics a spectacular start Saturday.

International Cycling Union President Pat McQuaid told The Associated Press on Wednesday he expects an Olympics record crowd of a million people to line the road-race route to see if Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins can help world champion Mark Cavendish become the first London Games gold medallist .

Wiggins will then likely start as favourite next Wednesday for his specialist time trial event.

"It's all coming together at just the right time. From the UCI's point of view, it couldn't be better," McQuaid said in an interview.

After British cyclists dominated Olympic track events in Beijing four years ago, success on London's roads would extend a perfectly timed peak for the sport here.

McQuaid acknowledged that his Irish roots allowed him "a certain bias" in hoping for a gold-medal double from Englishmen Cavendish and Wiggins.

"It would be great if it happened because it's another edition to this fairy-tale story" in British cycling, McQuaid said. "It would great for cycling and great for the Olympic Games."

McQuaid landed in London direct from Wiggins' historic victory in Paris as the first Briton to take home the yellow jersey in the 99th edition of the Tour de France.

"I arrived here on Sunday night and the papers here are just full of cycling," the International Olympic Committee member said on the sidelines of its general assembly. "All of the IOC people were delighted that it happened the week before the games.

"They were opening the newspapers and seeing Wiggins, Wiggins, Wiggins."

Cycling seems certain to justify its selection as the first of more than 300 medal events to begin the 16-day Olympic spectacle.

"There's a reason for that," McQuaid said. "The cycling road race showcases the city. You are looking at aerial shots and the iconic buildings. And if the weather holds out for Saturday we're going to see the biggest crowd ever at any Olympic event. That is something."

The 250-kilometre (155-mile) route starts and finishes on The Mall, affording Queen Elizabeth II a view from her balcony should she choose.

"As the riders are going up the finishing straight the backdrop is Buckingham Palace. That beats anything else in the world," McQuaid said.

The time trial course also has a royal appointment, following a 44-kilometre (27.3-mile) loop around the medieval Hampton Court Palace built for King Henry VIII.

It seems a fitting setting for Wiggins and Cavendish to crown a golden spell for cycling in football-crazy Britain.

"It's an incredible journey," McQuaid said.

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