Great Britain disqualified from women's team sprint

Great Britain's Victoria Pendleton and Jess Varnish committed a takeover violation in their semi-final round and the resulting relegation ended their bid for a team sprint medal.

Great Britain's Victoria Pendleton and Jess Varnish committed a takeover violation in their semi-final round and the resulting relegation ended their bid for a team sprint medal. (Image credit: AFP)

Great Britain's Victoria Pendleton and Jess Varnish were relegated from the women's team sprint on the first day of track racing at the Olympic Games after breaking takeover rules in their second race of the evening.

The home favourites won their semi-final but later found out that their conduct would lead to relegation after Varnish had pulled over and Pendleton has passed her teammate too early. The commissar's decision brought an end to Varnish's first Games while Pendleton will still race in the Keirin and women's individual sprint.

"If you don't stick by the rules then that can happen," Pendleton said after the decision had been taken.

"It's a split second mistake and it can happen so fast. Jess moves up slightly I saw the door and took it and we're both partly to blame for not changing in the legal zone. It's something we've practiced many times and I don't really have any explanation why. I'm disappointed in myself and Jess is equally disappointed. These things happen."

The pair had started the evening in scintillating form, setting a new world record with a time of 32.526 as they nudged out their old foes, Australia's pairing of Kaarle McCulloch and Anna Meares. That time was soon bettered, though, as China set a mark of 32.447. It appeared as though a match-up between Britain and China would decide the gold medal after the home team defeated Ukraine in their semi with 32.527.

But news began to filter through of Britain's illegal manoeuvre. Dave Brailsford headed for the commissars and began a lengthy discussion but as he walked away from the scene he indicated that the team had been disqualified.

"I think it was a commissar who identified that the change may have been illegal and then when they looked at the footage they decided it was a metre or so too early so we're talking about a hundredth of a second, a blink of an eye, but these things happen. Jess and I were going faster than we've ever gone before and it just happened so quickly," Pendleton added.

"The rules are there to make it fair for everybody so I think it's best that they stick to the guidelines very closely rather than have a very wishy-washy approach to the rules. The rules are there for fair sport and I agree with that. I take responsibility entirely for the error we've made there in that race and I'm devastated to for Jess. The positive is that I was going faster than I've ever gone before in my entire life. My training has been going really well so hopefully I'll smash it in the Keirin. We definitely could have been on the podium though."

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Daniel Benson

Daniel Benson was the Editor in Chief at between 2008 and 2022. Based in the UK, he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he ran the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.