September 3 - British Cycling, who already run the world's most technically advanced programme in their sport, have been given another edge over their rivals in the build-up to London 2012 after Europe's largest defence contractor BAE Systems installed a new sophisticated £100,000 performance monitoring system at the Manchester Velodrome.

The laser-timing technology, derived from battlefield identification systems, means that up to 30 cyclists will be able to train simultaneously with the new system, which uses a laser able to read a personalised code from a retro reflective tag attached to each bike.

Installed at multiple points around the track in Manchester, the system gives individual recordings for each cyclist with millisecond accuracy.

British cyclists are hoping that it helps them retain their position as the world's number one track cycling team.

They finished top of the table at the Olympics in Beijing last year, winning a remarkable seven of the 10 gold medals available.

Jamie Staff, a member of the squad that won the men's team sprint, said: "This technology is a major step forward in training for us and will provide more accurate data to hone performances for future events.

"As a sprinter it is vital that we have the most accurate system available - current break beam systems cannot differentiate between cyclists on the track and are less accurate, so this new technology will allow us to train harder and more as a team."

The system has been developed as part of a £1.5 million deal between BAE Systems and UK Sport, the main distributor of National Lottery funding in Britain, which was signed last year.

James Baker, the director of technology and engineering systems for BAE Systems, said: "This new performance system demonstrates the essential role of engineering in helping our athletes to achieve those fractional improvements, which are often key to sporting success.

"We are proud to have the opportunity to harness the skills of our 18,000 engineers to support the British athletes as they prepare for success on the world stage.

"Our ongoing partnership with UK Sport offers an ideal opportunity for us to showcase the importance of engineering and how it can make a difference to everyone's lives."

Dr Scott Drawer, the head of research and innovation at UK Sport, said: "At this crucial time for British sport it is fantastic to be able to tap into BAE Systems' expertise in innovation to support us in delivering bespoke performance solutions to our athletes, which will ultimately help them strive for future success.

"This particular project is a fantastic example of how knowledge and experience from outside the sporting world can be applied effectively to give our athletes an edge in their preparation and training."

Related stories:
January 2008:
UK Sport signs new deal with BAE