Experts who have seen it say the 333-meter cycling track at Melbourne compares favorably with the good tracks of Europe. A race-track tout can safely predict some fast times in the Games, but it would take something on the order of divine guidance to pick many winners. A number of countries, in fact, have not yet decided which sprinter will enter the one-kilometer time trial (where each man races alone against the stop watch) and which will enter the one-kilometer scratch race. On recent performances. Russia's Rotoslav Vargachkin, who can clock 1:12 or better almost at will, and Italy's Valentino Gasperella, who has hit 1:10.3, and France's 20-year-old Michel Rousseau rate among the best in the time trial. With Rousseau going in the time trials, his old European rival, Gugliemo Pesenti of Italy, becomes a chancy favorite to win the one-kilometer scratch race. The Australians figure their best chance again this year is in the 2,000-meter tandem race. One of their 1952 Olympic tandem champions, Russ Mockridge, has turned professional, so Australia's tandem hopes also ride on two new men, Anthony Marchant and Ian Browne. In the tandem and the 4,000-meter team pursuit race, the cyclists from Australia and Europe have not run on the same tracks—in both events it's really anybody's guess.
Ten miles north of Melbourne the officials have laid out a circuit for the 118-mile road race that is already being called a course of horrors. It is bitumen paved, but dangerously narrow in spots, with edges of loose gravel. There are three tight corners and three heartbreak hills. Veteran Russ Mockridge took a look and announced, "Helsinki was a walkover compared to this." The hills are the sort that give the Italian mountain men a chance to break away. Whether it gives the Italians an advantage or not, it is certainly not a course that favors a repeat by the Belgians who won the team title so convincingly over the easier road at Helsinki. However, Belgium's top man, Norbert Verougstraete, will probably be in the fore with the best of the French, Italians and Australians.
In Allen Bell, who set a new one-kilometer record of 1:13.5, and veteran Jack Disney, the U.S. has some chance for medals. It's safe to figure the U.S. team will do generally better than in '48 and '52 when their luck was riddled with punctures and spills. The U.S. has not won a cycling medal since 1912 and it would be wonderful for a bicycle rider to bring a medal back to this land of rocket-tailed motor cars.