BRADLEY WIGGINS has paid tribute to Colne’s Steven Burke insisting the Olympic newcomer is ready to take the step up.

Burke, 20, is the fifth member of a British team pursuit squad that are hot favourites to add Olympic gold to the World Championships title they won in Manchester earlier this year.

Only four can race, meaning Burke’s first Games could be a watching brief, but Wiggins – whose collection of Olympic medals includes one gold, a silver and two bronzes – is impressed by what he has seen.

“He’s been showing promise for some time and he deserves this chance,” he said.

“We’ve had a strong team pursuit squad for a few years now and the key to that has been depth and the fact everyone has to fight for their place.

“A few of us have been around a while now, so it’s good to be reminded about all the young talent coming through.

“He’s worked incredibly hard and is a key part of this team.”

Burke, who trains at Britain’s cycling academy in Tuscany, has long threatened to graduate from the junior ranks – where he has won medals of every colour.

He was part of Britain’s winning team pursuit squad at the World Cup in Copenhagen earlier this year but admits he faces a battle for a place in the starting quartet.

Along with Wiggins, two-time Olympic medalist Paul Manning, Tour de France rider Geraint Thomas and two-time world champion Ed Clancy are vying with Burke for a place.

In addition Mark Cavendish, a four-time stage winner on this year’s Tour de France and evergreen veteran Chris Newton could be drafted in.

Meanwhile, Burke was allowed a few hours break from training to take part in last night’s opening ceremony, which redefined spectacular in Beijing’s sparkling new but already iconic Bird’s Nest stadium.

“This time last year I would have said that 2012 would have been my target – to experience this four years earlier is beyond my dreams,” he said.

“I’ve trained so hard in the last few months that I would have been disappointed not to be here.

“I’ve been around the team for a while but the intensity has stepped up another level since we arrived at the training camp in Wales.

“Bradley has been my hero since I saw him win the gold in Athens and it’s amazing to think that I’m riding with him just four years later.”

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