The British four of Bradley Wiggins, Owain Doull, Ed Clancy and Jon Dibben started off with steady pace and although they were 0.7 of a second down on their rivals after 3,000 meters, a devastating turn from the former Tour de France winner Wiggins saw them edge 0.4 seconds ahead.
With a lap to go, they still held the lead but in the closing stages Ed Clancy – Dibben had already peeled off – tightened up and the gold was gone. Australia had to set the third fastest time of all-time to deny the home nation, who in turn posted their fastest time since London 2012 in the process.
At the finish both Wiggins and Steven Burke, who was replaced by Clancy for the final, praised the team’s efforts and highlighted Clancy in particular. Twelve weeks ago the Yorkshireman was recovering from back surgery and needed to be driven to the Manchester velodrome on his back and in the rear of a van just to train.
Clancy was unused in qualifying and in the team’s semi-final but was dropped in as first man for the final. His first competitive outing in six months started well enough, with one long turn in the middle of the race stabilising the British effort after Australia had started on the front foot
“This was a strange place to start, and I hadn’t pinned a number on my bike for six months and I was in the final at the worlds. I was thrown in at the deep end but I want to thank everyone who helped me out. We’ve fast-tracked things and I know we’re not flying but I rode well. I just couldn’t hang onto Brad in the last lap,” Clancy said at the line.
“I did a good start, and a good middle turn and I was hoping to give it everything in the middle of the race and that Brad would take it at the finish. I came up a little bit short and I was just left hanging. It’s good to be back though. This isn’t where we want to be though and it’s disappointing for all of us.
“We had a great chance there in our home Worlds. We had our strongest ride there in the final but the Aussies just stepped up. We didn’t ride badly but fair play to them. We’re right in the hunt though and chances are we are going to go two or three seconds faster in Rio.”
Burke picked up a silver medal having ridden in the previous rounds. He missed out on a ride in the final and admitted that his own form had been below expectations in the championships. The 2012 gold medallist stood up for the coaches’ decisions over the line-up, however, saying that the best four riders had been selected for the final.
“The correct selections were made. We go off data, graphs and analysis. The riders in the final earned their place but unfortunately it wasn’t enough on the day. Ed has done fantastically well and there’s no other riders who could have done what he has with his back surgery and as a group we’ll move on,” he told Cyclingnews.
“I’ve not been great but I’ll improve. We’ve made massive gains from two years ago when we were eighth in Cali Worlds. We’ll hit our peak when it really matters,” he added.
Wiggins admitted that the line-up changes had been a small gamble but admitted that each rider, including himself, needed to analyse the performance and all the minute ifs and buts that transpired.
"We did gamble a bit with the semi-final by putting Tennant in and Burke wasn't quite on it, and that was to save Jon and Ed for the final. In hindsight we could have put Ed in earlier rounds, but in two weeks he's gone from not making any efforts – with the medical team saying that he can only race from man-four – to starting this race in the gate, against all the medical advice from the team back in Manchester,” Wiggins said.
“Everyone now dissects their rides. Perhaps I shouldn't have changed [in the final lap – ed.] Perhaps I should have just taken it to line, but you're always thinking in the back of your mind that perhaps the guy behind me has a little more in that last lap. I swung up and Ed just didn't have it. You could see that. It's one of those things.”