Team pursuiters "learned to live on the edge"
By Shane Stokes in Manchester
Day two of the Manchester world track championships was a special one for the Great Britain team, with a total of three gold medals and two world records going to its riders in front of a particularly vocal home crowd.
Rebecca Romero won the women's individual pursuit, Shanaze Reade and Victoria Pendleton took the women's team sprint and the quartet of Bradley Wiggins, Ed Clancy, Paul Manning and Geraint Thomas dominated the men's team pursuit. World records were set in the latter two events; Reade and Pendleton scorched around the track at over 54 km/h to record 33"186 in the qualifiers and the team pursuit riders laid down a time of 3'56"322 in their final.
Taking into account Wiggins' gold medal from Wednesday's opening day of the competitions, the GB team has now won four championship titles. Thus far, it is on course to equal or better the seven goals set in Majorca 2007, and has also scored an important psychological advantage over its opponents for Beijing.
Former world hour record holder and Olympic gold medallist Chris Boardman is one of the country's most famous riders and now part of the support structure for the British competitors. He was one of those celebrating the showing on Thursday, and gave his reaction to Cyclingnews.
"It really shouldn't come as a surprise as they have worked towards it," he said of the team pursuit world record. "This has been going on for months, really, but for the past few weeks they have been doing specific work on the track. They have been doing everything again and again. They know each other so well, and they know their own limits now."
The Great Britain team were actually only second-quickest in the qualifiers, recording a time 1.25 seconds off the 3'57"73 set by the Danish quartet. However, Boardman said that the riders kept their minds on the job. "That is the fastest they have ever qualified, so they didn't panic," he stated. "They just rejigged the same team, worked out how they were going to re-use their energy, decided who was going to be shorter on the turns, and had the confidence to implement it. They didn't think about the other team at all. It [the final] was phenomenal to watch.
"Just to see it executed is always a shock, and a surprise. Denmark went so fast... I wonder if they would have pushed themselves so hard if Denmark hadn't done so? So that certainly helped."
Apart from Great Britain, Denmark also went under the four minute barrier in both the qualifiers and the finals, while Australia (4'00"10) and New Zealand (4'00"83) were just outside it. The recently-resurfaced Manchester track is proving to be a fast one. However, it is Great Britain's new world record which will be on the minds of the other teams, the new standard highlighting that those riders will be the ones to beat in Beijing.
Boardman felt that the record will quite possibly intimidate the other teams. "It doesn't do them any good to know that you can ride under four minutes but you still just about get on the podium. Thing is, I still don't think the British guys have gone as fast as they can go, to be honest. There is more to come from them, and there's other bits of equipment and stuff that we have yet to throw in - that might polish it even further."
He said that the team stepped up a gear in 2007 due to taking more risks. "They changed the strategy last year. It was quite subtle but it had always been a case of not being on the edge, always being cautious. They switched it last year and decided that they were going to live right on the edge and blow it apart. They accept they might blow apart themselves but they said they are still going to stay there and learn to live with it.
"So with all the training, with every ride they did, they never said 'we did just enough'. They said that they are going to go to the absolute limit and learn to manage it. And I think that is what they have done."
It was, he said, a question of knowing what each was capable of. "From first ride to second ride today, they looked at people's form, they shuffled it around a little bit and everybody was on their own personal limit. Gee [Geraint Thomas] was doing half-lap turns, Bradley was doing two lap turns, but everybody was on their own personal limit. Probably the way to sum it up is that they have learned to live on the edge."