PARIS: As former teammates, Mark Cavendish and Matt Goss could spin a yarn or two about how to beat one another in cycling's hotly-contested road races.
But at the London Olympics, their widely anticipated duel for gold on the opening day could set the wheels in motion for a Britain v Australia rivalry that has the potential to dominate the cycling events in London.
In all, 18 gold medals spread across four cycling disciplines -- road racing (four), track (10), BMX (two) and mountain bike (two) -- will be contested at the Games.
And going on recent form, Britain and Australia are gearing up to hog the Olympic spotlight.
Now racing with different trade teams, Cavendish and Goss are among the favourites to claim the first cycling gold of the Games at the 250 km men's road race on July 28.
It culminates on the pancake-flat home straight of The Mall, meaning the teams with sprint specialists -- such as Cavendish, Goss, Germany's Andre Greipel and Belgium's Tom Boonen -- will be doing everything they can to stymie dangerous late attacks.
Isle of Man sprinter Cavendish, who won the second stage of the Tour de France on Monday, is widely seen as the man to beat, especially after his triumph, ahead of Goss, at the world road race championships in 2011.
"I want to have a great season," Cavendish said.
"I would be telling a lie if I said I was not dreaming of the Olympic race. I have strong patriotic feelings and the Games in London is for me the chance of a lifetime."
In the women's road race the following day, Britain's Lizzie Armitstead -- currently locked in an internal leadership battle with reigning champion Nicole Cooke -- fancies her chances in the event of a bunch finish at the end of 140 km.
"I think I'm the fastest of the British girls," said Armitstead, who will still have a job in holding off the challenge of Dutchwoman Marianne Vos, Italian Giorgia Bronzini and Ina-Yoko Teutenberg of Germany among others.
It is on the track, however, that Britain and Australia's rivalry will be given top billing during six successive days of competition (August 2-7).
Crowned kings of the velodrome at the Athens Games in 2004, Australia are once again among the world beaters having flopped in the cycle leading up to Beijing, where Britain ruled the roost.
In part because of rules changes, meaning only one competitor per event is allowed, Britain have little chance of winning seven of the 10 track golds as they did in the Chinese capital.
Nevertheless, some mighty battles are on the horizon with both countries fancied to challenge for gold in most of the finals, with France (men's sprint) and Germany (men's and women's team sprint) looking to muscle in.
"I don't think I'm being unrealistic in saying that we're in the hunt in most of the Olympic events," Australia's high performance director Kevin Tabotta said after the London leg of the World Cup.
After the two nations fought a close battle for track supremacy at April's world championships in Melbourne, his British counterpart, Dave Brailsford, was just as bullish.
"If we were maxing out, then there would be cause for concern," said Brailsford. "But I think there's no reason why we can't step up again."
Australia and Britain's medal hopes in BMX are respectively Sam Willoughby (men) and Shanaze Reade (women), but in the high-octane sport known for its spills and thrills anything can happen on the day.
Willoughby, a former world junior champion, claimed his senior world crown only weeks ago to give reigning Olympic champion Maris Strombergs some food for thought.
For Reade, London is a date she can't even consider missing.
On her way to a likely gold or silver four years ago the Englishwoman clipped wheels with Anne-Caroline Chausson going into the last bend.
The Frenchwoman won gold ahead of compatriot Laetitia Le Corguille leaving Reade facing a four-year wait for a shot at Olympic glory.
In mountain bike cross country the French pair, Julien Absalon and Jean-Christophe Peraud, also scored a 1-2 in Beijing. Now Absalon is targeting a third consecutive title in London.
"I've been focused on my Olympic goal for the past few years now," Absalon said last month after winning a World Cup race in his native Vosges region.