The first two days of the Track World Championships in St Quentin en Yvelines, France have been a mixed bag as far as Team GB is concerned. Strong showings from both sets of team pursuiters have been marred by worrying flops in the team sprints.
Men's team pursuit
Ahead of the world championships the pressure was well and truly on the shoulders of Great Britain's men’s pursuit team after their disappointing eighth place at last year’s World Championships in Cali. It was only the second time in 15 years that the men's quartet has failed to win a medal.
There was relief, then, when Ed Clancy, Steven Burke, Owain Doull and Andy Tennant qualified second fastest on Wednesday, going under the four-minute mark. Relief then turned to optimism when they saw off Germany on Thursday with a time of 3:55:087 to set up a gold-medal clash against New Zealand. The Kiwi's emerged victorious and took the rainbow jerseys after a close battle in the final but Clancy was understandably satisfied.
“A month ago Burkey had a broken collarbone and Owain was cut to ribbons after a crash so we’ll take that," he told the Guardian. It was a couple of fast rides. A lot was said last year about how bad we were, we just had a shocker. Shane Sutton said to us this morning that we can do Rio now, and he’s right. It’s all coming together now.”
Women's team pursuit
The women’s team pursuiters have enjoyed similar fortunes to their male counterparts so far, qualifying in second place before going close to world record pace to book a spot in the final.
The only difference being that whereas the men are rediscovering their confidence, Katie Archibald, Laura Trott, Elinor Barker and Jo Rowsell are the current members of a quartet that has grown accustomed to dominance.
They faced old foe Australia in the final who stormed to the gold medal with a new world record time of 4:13.683. Great Britain collected the silver medals but lost their unbeaten record in the event. The revenge match is set for the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016 and next year's World Championships in London.
Men's team sprint
It seems that Britain’s male team sprinters are still struggling to adapt to life after Sir Chris Hoy.
Phillip Hindes and Jason Kenny won Olympic gold with Hoy in 2012 but their partner yesterday, Callum Skinner, was unable to hold their wheels as they sprinted around the track. They finished a disappointing eighth in qualifying round and as such didn’t get the chance to compete for the medals.
Skinner, 22 and riding his first Worlds, got the nod over Kian Emadi, who rode to fifth place with Hindes and Kenny at the Worlds last year in Cali, but has had back injuries of late. Hindes rode a bigger gear to temper his start but the trio was still unable to stay together and paid a high price.
GB have won gold in this event at the previous two Olympic Games in London and Beijing. They are well known for tailoring their performance to Olympic years but even so, on this evidence they face an uphill struggle to make it three from three in Rio.
The women are also feeling the absence of a key figure due to injury. Becky James, who won team sprint bronze in the last two World Championships, began rehabilitation for a serious knee injury in October. It has left Jess Varnish and Victoria Williamson, who usually battle for the right to lead James out as man-one. They finished out of the top ten in the 500m time trial but will be hoping to find more speed in the team sprint.
More disappointment for Jason Kenny, who finished sixth in the opening round to go into the repechage, where he wasn’t able to qualify for the next round. Frenchman Francois Pervis dominated the final and made front page news in L'Equipe, while the Great Britain could only watch on from the track centre.
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