They once held the world record for the women's team pursuit, but since that day in May of 2010, Sarah Hammer, Dotsie Bausch and Lauren Tamayo have been unable to match the progression of teams such as Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. That all changed on the debut night of the event at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, where team USA qualified second fastest to advance to the first round.
Three-time Olympian Jennie Reed was the team's third rider in place of Tamayo for the qualifying round. Despite a mistake in the last half lap that saw Hammer riding away from Reed and Bausch, with the time taken on the third rider, they still went quicker than all but Great Britain, who broke its own world record to top the standings.
Hammer, who raced the individual pursuit in Beijing in the 2008 Games, said the race felt amazing. "Everything we've been training for the last four years is on the line. We executed amazingly, got a new American record, which is always a great feeling and qualified second. The first is step complete; a great position to be in. Tomorrow I believe we are racing the Australians, so we're focused on winning that. It is all about making it to that gold medal round.
Benjamin Sharp, the USA Cycling Track Endurance Director, was happy with the team's execution of its race. "They stuck to the plan and executed it very well," Sharp said. "I think we can make some adjustments for tomorrow and maybe even have a slightly faster time. I think all of the teams tonight performed at their maximum, so I don't really expect to see many faster times, except for maybe Great Britain."
In qualifying, each team competed on the track alone. In tomorrow's round 1, USA will go up against Australia, who qualified third best, three tenths of a second slower than the Americans, while Canada was just 0.4 seconds behind.
"Even without a perfect ride, we were able to qualify second and as a coach I'm pleased to know that there is a little bit of an adjustment we can make and probably go even faster for the next round," Sharp said.
He expects that the British will go on to win the gold if they keep on like they rode in qualifying, but also predicts a close race for silver and bronze. "Great Britain is obviously in a league of their own. We're just going to keep hammering them. We have two more rounds to go, so obviously there's an opportunity to falter and an opportunity for us to overtake them. Realistically, we just have to keep doing what we're doing and execute to the best of our ability."
The coaches are staying mum on the line-up for the rounds tomorrow, but they have Tamayo in reserve, and she is ready if called upon to bring her team to the medal rounds. "I'm really excited and focused for our ride tomorrow. The girls did an amazing job today qualifying second. Our coaching staff coming in to this has had a strategic plan to get us into the gold medal ride and so far everything is on task and that is what we're looking forward to tomorrow."