Day one of the UCI Track World Championships in London the Great Britain team laid down an important marker, leading after the qualifying round and setting up a semi-final against surprise package Italy.
While the home nation's sprint teams faltered the four-man team of Bradley Wiggins, Jon Dibben, Steven Burke and Owain Doull set a time of 3:55.664. At one point the team were over a second up on their nearest competitors, Australia, but they faltered in the final stages and lost Burke before the line.
Team coach Heiko Salzwedel spent close to an hour analysing the immediate post-effort data in the team pits before explaining that although he was satisfied with leading, he expected more from his team.
"We did the best time but it was a bit lower than our expectations," he told Cyclingnews and The Guardian.
"Put it this way, we expected a bit more opposition here from Switzerland, from Denmark and from Australia."
Australia finished second with defending world champions New Zealand faltering and slipping to third.
Salzwedel pointed to minor but fixable problems in the Great Britain camp but in an afternoon session in which the British sprint teams crashed out, the German coach must have been relieved that his pursuit team had got the job done.
“There were a couple of minor tactical problems. Steven Burke came a bit too light and we lost him early. That was a bit disappointing but nonetheless Bradley has proved that he is a world-class athlete and that he belongs in the team. He was incredible. I think that Bradley, Owain and Jon they did an incredible job and there's definitely more in the tank than what we've seen today. I'm definitely happy with the best time but I'm not happy with the time. I'm expecting more tomorrow.”
A dilemma for Salzwedel is whether he alternates his team. He confirmed that Mark Cavendish would not race in the team pursuit, but against Italy there is a temptation to rest one rider and offer a ride to Ed Clancy – a rider who 12 weeks ago could not walk after back surgery.
“The good thing about British Cycling is that I have riders to choose from. I have a luxury problem and I will meet with the boys later this afternoon. Then I have an evening to sleep on it and then I'll present the names tomorrow lunch time. Who does the first round is not necessarily who will race the final.”
As for Burke, who was part of the team's success in the London Olympics four years ago, Salzwedel said: "I expected a bit more from him but I will talk to him. Everyone can make a mistake. It’s the same as what happened with Dibben in Cali. We didn't crucify him and he's still here and he did a fantastic job. He picked up the speed for Burke. Owen needs to get more confident, he can really bring that home."
Wiggins raises the bar
As for Wiggins, the poster boy of British Cycling, Salzwedel was quick to issue his own 'I told you so' to those who doubted whether the former Tour de France rider could return to the track successfully and questioned that selection was effected by reputation. During the team's ride Wiggins appeared head and shoulders above those around him, and almost stretched the team to breaking point with his second long turn on the front.
"Brad is a competitor. He always gets his act together and picks up in competition. He wasn't that special in training. He was a good solid part of the team but he wasn't that exceptional like he produced today. He picked it up and went longer. That was valuable."