Australia claimed its first gold medal of the 2011 world championships with a performance that was heads and shoulders above the Russian foursome. Jack Bobridge, Rohan Dennis, Michael Hepburn and Luke Durbridge were the only team to crack the four minute mark in the unusually slow track conditions in Apeldoorn.
For the first half of the 4km race it looked as if the Russians might give them a fight for the gold. With veterans Alexander Serov and Alexei Markov and newcomers Ivan and Evgeny Kovalev, the Russian quartet overcame a slower start to draw even with the Australians - and even a few hundredths of a second ahead at the midpoint.
But once the Australian team got the go ahead to give it full gas, the gap exploded to over four seconds by the finish - 3:57.832 to Russia's 4:02.229.
For 22-year-old Luke Durbridge, his first rainbow jersey was, "a fantastic feeling".
"I missed out on the rainbow jersey at road worlds last year in the time trial by 1.9 seconds, and I missed out making the [gold medal winning pursuit] team last year. So it's a great feeling to get in the team and get the world title."
Durbridge revealed that what looked like a dangerous challenge from the Russian team was actually a bit of strategy on the part of Australian endurance coach Ian McKenzie.
"We decided the Russians always go out hard, so we rode our schedule for 2k and then we decided to race them. At 2km we were up, so then we decided to really race it and once we got ahead, we just kept getting further and further ahead. We just listened to [McKenzie] and didn't worry about anything else that was going on on the track. We just listened to him and what he had us do was perfect.
"It was great riding with guys like Jack, Rohan and Michael Hepburn - It's my first time riding worlds with them, and I just did everything they said and it worked out great."
Great Britain had a bit of a wrench thrown into its plans when Ed Clancy struggled in the qualifying rounds and then withdrew from the world championships entirely before the final. He was quickly substituted with Sam Harrison, who was already scheduled to compete in the men's scratch race directly following the team pursuit final.
Following the switch, the British team set a 4:02.781 to best New Zealand for the bronze medal, further complicating Harrison's evening as the pursuit podium ceremony took place directly before the evening's mass-start events.
The race organisers had to delay the start of the scratch race in order to give Harrison time to attend the team pursuit podium.
Andrew Tennant said the British team's preparations might have not been ideal, but that he was pleased with how the team stepped up to deliver in the bronze medal round.
"It's not like last year when losing by a tenth of a second was absolutely gutting. This year we lost fair and square, we just didn't have the legs to keep up with them. I'm pleased with how we pulled off the final.
"Ed's been ill twice since we did the Tour of Sardinia. He's been struggling and it wasn't the best preparation - he's one of our best riders, and I twisted my ankle earlier this week. So it's not been perfect preparation, but we gave it our best shot. We changed the line up in the final to add Sam Harrison, and he did a great job of that.
"A 4:02 under these conditions would be the equivalent of just under four minutes on a faster track," he said, which is a good performance for Britain's second string team. "It just goes to show how well the Aussies were going to do a 3:57
"It shows how phenomenal they are and how much we have to step up before the Olympics. Hopefully we can add a few more to the team, get Brad [Wiggins] back and have our top 5 unit again and keep pressing on next year. I've got a silver and a bronze so far, and I need to add a gold."
For the New Zealand team, the disappointment was visible on the faces of Jesse Sergent, Sam Bewley, Marc Ryan and Peter Latham.
"It's not really what we were talking about doing earlier, was it," Sergent said afterward. "It's hard to say what went wrong, I wish I had the answer. I think we were just a bit off. The track was running a bit slow, but everyone is on the same track so that's not an excuse. A couple days ago we had some of our best training times, and we thought we were all going good. It's funny how things can change overnight.
"I thought we'd have a good race with Great Britain, and it'd be neck and neck. We just dropped off the pace about the third kilometre and never really had much hope from there on. Everyone is pretty disappointed with it."
Sergent will move on to the individual pursuit on Thursday in hopes of getting redemption for New Zealand.
Australia qualifies fastest for final
The heavily favoured Australian team qualified fastest ahead of Russia to make the gold and silver medal final in the men's team pursuit. Jack Bobridge, Rohan Dennis, Luke Durbridge and Michael Hepburn set a time of 4:00.168, while the Russian team (Alexey Markov, Evgeny and Ivan Kovalev and Alexander Serov) came in just a little slower with 4:00.965.
The Great Britain team missed out on the gold medal final by just two seconds, setting 4:02.764 with Ed Clancy, Steven Burke, Peter Kennaugh and Andrew Tennant.
British performance manager Dave Brailsford explained their under-par performance by revealing that Clancy, the team's strongest pursuiter, has been ill and that affected the time.
"What can we do? The strongest rider on the team didn't train last week," said Brailsford, adding that the country's top pursuit riders were off enjoying success on the road. Geraint Thomas claimed second in Dwars door Vlaanderen at the same moment the British team was on the track.
Great Britain will face the New Zealand team (Sam Bewley, Peter Latham, Marc Ryan and Jesse Sergent) for bronze in tonight's final.
The qualifying times were far from the world record mark set by the British in Beijing (3:53.314), and the deceptively slow track proved to be the New Zealand team's undoing.
"Plain and simple, we picked the wrong gear," said New Zealand's coach Tim Carswell. "The guys just got bogged down. We based our gear choice on the Russians, but obviously they were going really, really well. On a faster track that would have been more like a 3:56.
"We'll make the adjustment in the final."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|Eloy Teruel Rovira|
|Pablo Aitor Bernal Rosique|
|Asier Maeztu Billelabeitia|
|David Muntaner Juaneda|
|Arno Van Der Zwet|
|Gijs Van Hoecke|
|Ingmar De Poortere|
|Lasse Norman Hansen|
|Rasmus Christian Quaade|
|Juan Esteban Arango Carvajal||0:04:09.066|
|Arles Antonio Castro Laverde|
|Avila Vanegas Edwin Alcibiades|
|Weimar Alfonso Roldan Ortiz|
|Antonio Roberto Cabrera Torres|
|Luis Fernando Sepulveda|
|17||Hong Kong, China||0:04:15.608|
|Ho Ting Kwok|
|King Lok Cheung|
|King Wai Cheung|
|Ki Ho Choi|
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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. As former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks.
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