The London Olympic velodrome was christened on Thursday evening as the UCI World Cup got underway with qualifying rounds for the women's and men's team pursuit. The sell-out crowd came alive, naturally enough, for the home team, with the women scraping through to meet Canada in Friday's final, and the men, racing into what Ed Clancy called "a wall of noise for 16 laps", matching the women by posting the second fastest time, behind Australia.
The big surprise in men's qualifying was the poor performances of New Zealand, missing Jesse Sergent, and Russia. The latter, fielding a young team, looked especially ragged, almost losing a man in the first two laps, and doing well to keep the deficit to 0.2 seconds after a kilometre. But then the team that won the World Cups in Astana and Beijing -- in times of 3.56 and 3.57 -- collapsed, eventually finishing out of the medals in 5th.
Belgium will race New Zealand, who were also well off the pace, for the bronze medal.
Sunday's final will pit the old rivals, Australia, represented here by Jack Bobridge, Rohan Dennis, Alexander Edmondson and Michael Hepburn, against Great Britain, with the reigning world champions qualifying fastest in 3:57.885, to Britain's 3:58.446.
"That felt really smooth," said Bobridge after the finish of qualifying. "It was good to get a hit out on the track and it is a bit different tonight with the qualifying so late at night. Normally you can get that blow out early in the morning and the cobwebs are normally flushed out.
"We can't complain with that ride. It was smooth, fast and in control the whole time."
There was mild disappointment in the British camp over the time, but not the performance. "Technically it was really smooth," said Peter Kennaugh, a member of the British team with Ed Clancy, Steven Burke and Geraint Thomas. "We set off in the first 2k on a schedule to hold us back a bit and we were on the line perfectly. We really controlled it well.
"We thought we'd be able to lift it and we did at times, though the time could have been a bit quicker.
"There's loads more to come," added Kennaugh, "especially a few months down the line. I haven't even done a road race yet this season: that'll take fitness up another level. I think we can go quicker on Sunday as well."
Clancy paid tribute to the atmosphere created by the spectators but also identified an issue it raises: "There was a wall of noise the whole 16 laps. It didn't die down one bit. Usually it's the start and finish, but for qualifying that's a bizarre atmosphere.
"I can't believe 6,000 people have come to watch us qualify," continued Clancy. "It was mental. All we could hear was noise. We usually communicate within the line -- hold, squeeze, or if we lose a guy at the end -- [but] we couldn't have heard a thing there... It's something we'll have to think about with the coach."
In qualifying for the women's team pursuit, which concludes on Friday, the early starting Canadians were quickest with 3:20.785, a national record. First Australia and then Britain were expected to challenge that, and both started much faster than the Canadian trio of Tara Whitten, Gillian Carleson and Jasmin Glaesser, but both teams also faded over the second half.
In the home team's case that represented a turnaround of 1.2 seconds. From leading by 0.794, and being inside world record pace, the British team, comprising Laura Trott, Joanna Rowsell and Wendy Houvenaghel, ended up finishing 0.415 seconds down, and only 0.056 seconds ahead of Australia to qualify for the final. That after Australia had a disrupted start thanks to a gate-malfunction. Holland were 4th to make the bronze medal ride-off against the Australians.
"We always planned to go out fast," said Rowsell. "We just couldn't keep it going, but hopefully tomorrow. We're racing for a medal so we'll look forward to that.
"The noise is amazing," Rowsell continued. "When you're racing you try to block everything out but you can't block that amount of noise out. I think the world record is possible on this track."
The British women's coach, Paul Manning, seemed to admit that the line-up might be tweaked for the final, with Dani King in the wings.
"We've got 24 hours now," said Manning, a member of Britain's world record-setting Olympic gold medal-winning men's team in Beijing. "It's quite a productive time to look at the four riders and see who we want to use."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|Jack Bobridge (Aus) Australia|
|Rohan Dennis (Aus) Australia|
|Alexander Edmondson (Aus) Australia|
|Michael Hepburn (Aus) Australia|
|Steven Burke (GBr) Great Britain|
|Edward Clancy (GBr) Great Britain|
|Peter Kennaugh (GBr) Great Britain|
|Geraint Thomas (GBr) Great Britain|
|Sam Bewley (NZl) New Zealand|
|Aaron Gate (NZl) New Zealand|
|Westley Gough (NZl) New Zealand|
|Marc Ryan (NZl) New Zealand|
|Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel) Belgium|
|Dominique Cornu (Bel) Belgium|
|Kenny De Ketele (Bel) Belgium|
|Jonathan Dufrasne (Bel) Belgium|
|Artur Ershov (Rus) Russia|
|Valery Kaykov (Rus) Russia|
|Evgeny Kovalev (Rus) Russia|
|Ivan Savitsky (Rus) Russia|
|Michael Vingerling (Ned) Netherlands|
|Levi Heimans (Ned) Netherlands|
|Jenning Huizenga (Ned) Netherlands|
|Arno Van Der Zwet (Ned) Netherlands|
|Juan Esteban Arango (Col) Colombia|
|Edwin Avila Vanegas (Col) Colombia|
|Arles Antonio Castro Laverde (Col) Colombia|
|Weimar Roldan Ortiz (Col) Colombia|
|Kirill Sveshnikov (Rus) Lokosphinx|
|Roman Ivlev (Rus) Lokosphinx|
|Pavel Karpenkov (Rus) Lokosphinx|
|Sergey Shilov (Rus) Lokosphinx|
|Luis Mansilla (Chi) Chile|
|Antonio Cabrera (Chi) Chile|
|Gonzalo Miranda (Chi) Chile|
|Pablo Seisdedos (Chi) Chile|
|Casper Folsach (Den) Denmark|
|Lasse Norman Hansen (Den) Denmark|
|Rasmus Quaade (Den) Denmark|
|Christian Ranneries (Den) Denmark|
|Sunjae Jang (Kor) Korea|
|Seungwoo Choi (Kor) Korea|
|Keonwoo Park (Kor) Korea|
|Seon Ho Park (Kor) Korea|
|Vivien Brisse (Fra) France|
|Kevin Labeque (Fra) France|
|Kevin Lesellier (Fra) France|
|Laurent Pichon (Fra) France|
|Yuriy Agarkov (Ukr) Ukraine|
|Maksym Polishchuk (Ukr) Ukraine|
|Vitaliy Popkov (Ukr) Ukraine|
|Vitaliy Shchedov (Ukr) Ukraine|
|Marco Coledan (Ita) Italy|
|Omar Bertazzo (Ita) Italy|
|Michele Scartezzini (Ita) Italy|
|Paolo Simion (Ita) Italy|
|Maximilian Beyer (Ger) Germany|
|Robert Bengsch (Ger) Germany|
|Marcel Kalz (Ger) Germany|
|Theo Reinhardt (Ger) Germany|
|Ho Ting Kwok (HKg) Hong Kong|
|Ki Ho Choi (HKg) Hong Kong|
|King Lok Cheung (HKg) Hong Kong|
|King Wai Cheung (HKg) Hong Kong|
|Gael Suter (Swi) Switzerland|
|Cyrille Thiery (Swi) Switzerland|
|Silvan Dillier (Swi) Switzerland|
|Frank Pasche (Swi) Switzerland|
|Eloy Teruel Rovira (Spa) Spain|
|Albert Torres Barcelo (Spa) Spain|
|Asier Maeztu Billelabeitia (Spa) Spain|
|Sebastian Mora Vedri (Spa) Spain|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|Tara Whitten (Can) Canada|
|Gillian Carleton (Can) Canada|
|Jasmin Glaesser (Can) Canada|
|Laura Trott (GBr) Great Britain|
|Wendy Houvenaghel (GBr) Great Britain|
|Joanna Rowsell (GBr) Great Britain|
|Annette Edmondson (Aus) Australia|
|Melissa Hoskins (Aus) Australia|
|Josephine Tomic (Aus) Australia|
|Kirsten Wild (Ned) Netherlands|
|Vera Koedooder (Ned) Netherlands|
|Ellen Van Dijk (Ned) Netherlands|
|Sarah Hammer (USA) United States|
|Jennie Reed (USA) United States|
|Lauren Tamayo (USA) United States|
|Lauren Ellis (NZl) New Zealand|
|Jaime Nielsen (NZl) New Zealand|
|Alison Shanks (NZl) New Zealand|
|Ausrine Trebaite (Ltu) Lithuania|
|Vaida Pikauskaite (Ltu) Lithuania|
|Vilija Sereikaite (Ltu) Lithuania|
|Lisa Brennauer (Ger) Germany|
|Charlotte Becker (Ger) Germany|
|Madeleine Sandig (Ger) Germany|
|Svitlana Galyuk (Ukr) Ukraine|
|Lesya Kalitovska (Ukr) Ukraine|
|Lyubov Shulika (Ukr) Ukraine|
|Fan Jiang (Chn) China|
|Wenwen Jiang (Chn) China|
|Jing Liang (Chn) China|
|Jolien d'Hoore (Bel) Belgium|
|Els Belmans (Bel) Belgium|
|Kelly Druyts (Bel) Belgium|
|Evgenia Romanyuta (Rus) RusVelo|
|Verena Absalyamova (Rus) RusVelo|
|Irina Molicheva (Rus) RusVelo|
|Malgorzata Wojtyra (Pol) Poland|
|Eugenia Bujak (Pol) Poland|
|Katarzyna Pawlowska (Pol) Poland|
|Maki Tabata (Jpn) Japan|
|Hiroko Ishii (Jpn) Japan|
|Kayono Maeda (Jpn) Japan|
|Tatsiana Sharakova (Blr) Belarus|
|Alena Dylko (Blr) Belarus|
|Aksana Papko (Blr) Belarus|
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Richard Moore is a freelance journalist and author. His first book, In Search of Robert Millar (HarperSport), won Best Biography at the 2008 British Sports Book Awards. His second book, Heroes, Villains & Velodromes (HarperSport), was long-listed for the 2008 William Hill Sports Book of the Year.
He writes on sport, specialising in cycling, and is a regular contributor to Cyclingnews, the Guardian, skyports.com, the Scotsman and Procycling magazine.
He is also a former racing cyclist who represented Scotland at the 1998 Commonwealth Games and Great Britain at the 1998 Tour de Langkawi
His next book, Slaying the Badger: LeMond, Hinault and the Greatest Ever Tour de France, will be published by Yellow Jersey in May 2011.
Another book, Sky’s the Limit: British Cycling’s Quest to Conquer the Tour de France, will also be published by HarperSport in June 2011.
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