The United States came into the Tokyo Olympics women's team pursuit as the reigning world champions but in the qualifying round they finished well off the pace of Germany and even second-placed Great Britain.
The team are still in medal contention after qualifying third but USA Cycling coach Gary Sutton admitted the team will have to rethink their strategy, saying "tomorrow's a different day".
The US will face Great Britain in the first round on Tuesday, with the winner moving onto the gold medal final. If the US women lose to Great Britain, they must be at least fourth fastest of all teams to move onto the bronze medal round.
German set a new world and Olympic record time of 4:07.307 with a super slick ride. Great Britain was second fastest in 4:09.022, the USA third in 4:10.118, with Italy setting the fourth fastest time of 4:11.666. New Zealand was sixth with 4:12.536, Australian was seventh in 13.571 and Canada set 4:15.832.
With Rio silver medalists Jen Valente and Chloe Dygert leading off, followed by newcomers Lily Williams and Emma White, the US women got off to a fast start, midway between the times of Germany and early fast-starters Great Britain.
Dygert surged at front in the final kilometre and cracked Williams, who opened up a gap to her wheel and forced White and Valente to scramble back into contact the USA. However they were already third, having lagged behind Great Britain in the first few laps and been overtaken by Germany after one kilometre.
"We knew there would be world records broken this week," Sutton said. "The track's quick, and our schedule was for 4:07. We went out for 15-second laps. That's what the plan was."
The US will face an uphill battle against Great Britain to make the gold medal final, while Italy will race against Germany on Tuesday.
The Germans - Franziska Brausse, Lisa Brennauer, Lisa Klein, and Mieke Kröger - shattered the World and Olympic record with a time of 4:07.307 - nearly three seconds quicker than Great Britain's record set in Rio.
However, the British were on track for breaking Germany's record until the final kilometre.
Katie Archibald, Elinor Barker, Laura Kenney, and Josie Knight led until the 3500m mark when Knight lost contact and the team had to ease up to remain together. Their final kilometre was fifth-fastest and they finished in 4:09.022 showing they have much more in the tank for the coming two rounds.
The Americans, so dominant in last year's pre-pandemic Track World Championships, will now be looking in their rearview mirror at Italy, who surged in the final kilometre to finish finishing 1.5 seconds behind the Americans in fourth after running behind France and Australia at the earlier checks.
"That's where we're at at the moment," Sutton said.
"You take one round at a time and tomorrow is a different day. We'll go back. We'll look at the data; we’ll look at the pool structure and try to rearrange things. That's a big gap. But tomorrow's a different day."
Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news.
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