The big question
Why are we asking this now?
The British team dominated the world track championships, which ended in Manchester on Sunday, winning more gold medals than ever before. The home team took gold in nine of the 18 events and topped the medals table by a wide margin.
So who are our stars?
Bradley Wiggins won three gold medals, in the individual pursuit, team pursuit (in partnership with Paul Manning, Geraint Thomas and Ed Clancy) and madison. (Pursuiting is essentially time-trialling, with the riders racing against the clock as much as their opponents; the madison, which Wiggins won in partnership with Mark Cavendish, requires endurance and sprinting skills as well as tactical awareness.)
Victoria Pendleton, a short-distance sprinter with a scorching turn of speed, won gold in the individual and team sprint events and a silver in the keirin, which tests sprinting speed and racing skills. Chris Hoy took gold and silver in the men's individual and team sprints respectively and gold in the keirin. Rebecca Romero won the women's individual pursuit and teamed up with Wendy Houvenaghel and Jo Rowsell to win the team pursuit.
Have these people come from nowhere?
Not at all. Britain has enjoyed increasing success ever since winning three track cycling medals, including a gold, at the Sydney Olympics eight years ago. The 2004 Games in Athens were even more productive. British riders have dominated recent world championships and World Cups. They won seven golds at the 2007 world championships, a tally few thought could be beaten in Manchester this year.
What's the secret of their success?
The Government would like to claim some of the credit. Andy Burnham, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, was in Manchester and was quick to point out the importance of National Lottery funding. Britain's elite competitors are indeed funded to the tune of more than 5m a year, which enables 22 riders to train full-time at the Manchester Velodrome. And Lottery funding increases according to success.
But there is much more to it than cash. Peter Keen, who was the national performance director at the Sydney Olympics, and Dave Brailsford, in charge since 2003, have been inspirational leaders and have recruited some of the world's best coaches and sports scientists. Two of Brailsford's most recent signings typify the quality of their team: Jan van Eijden, a German former world sprint champion, and Scott Gardner, an Australian recognised as the world's leading sprint sports scientist, are both working closely with Pendleton.
Brailsford believes in seeking an advantage in every conceivable field, including nutrition, fitness, medicine, coaching, tactics, psychology and technology. Chris Boardman, who won Olympic gold 16 years ago on a revolutionary bike, heads a research and development team that is constantly looking for ways to make British bikes go faster. Brailsford deliberately held back some technical innovations in Manchester so that his riders can spring a surprise in Beijing.
But didn't a British rider fail a drugs test in Manchester?
Rob Hayles was not allowed to ride after a pre-race "health check" showed that his blood haematocrit level marginally exceeded the maximum allowed. The test measures the capacity of the blood to carry oxygen. High haematocrit levels can be an indication of illegal blood-boosting, but they are not regarded as proof.
Brailsford, who is an outspoken critic of drug-taking and insists on rigorous in-house testing of his …