APELDOORN, Netherlands (AFP) – Australia produced a team pursuit master class to beat Russia and defend their crown here at the 2011 world track cycling championships Wednesday.
Depleted Olympic champions Britain took the bronze medal after dominating New Zealand in their third-place ride-off.
Australia had clocked the fastest time in qualifying earlier Thursday to stake their claim for a first gold of the five-day championships.
However, in the early stages of the final Jack Bobridge, Rohan Dennis, Luke Durbridge and Michael Hepburn were given a stiff challenge by a Russian quartet who are now coached by much-travelled specialist Heiko Salzwedel.
The Russians had taken a slim deficit of 0.5 seconds over the first kilometer down to just 0.1 by the 2km mark, however their threat to try and level with Australia failed to materialize as the world champions pushed up the pace.
Russia lost one of their riders after the 3km mark, and moments later Durbridge coasted up the boards to signal that his effort for Australia was over.
In the final kilometer the remaining Russian trio were no match for the Aussies, who coasted over the finish line in triumph in a time of 3:57.832. Russia finished in 4:02.231 to take the silver.
“The main key was for us was to remain in control,” said Bobridge, who recently smashed Chris Boardman’s 15-year-old record for the individual event.
“We’ve been training together and we know what we can do, we rely on each other to ride smooth.
“We saved a lot of energy for this afternonon to come out in the final and really put the hammer down to take another win.”
The world record is held by reigning Olympic champions Britain in a time of 3:53.314, however they were missing key elements — notably Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas — as they look to peak solely for the Olympics.
Australia meanwhile has come here to win, and while doing so gave a good indication that they will be the ones to beat come the London Games next year.
Bobridge, who will aim for gold in the individual pursuit Thursday in the absence of defending champion Taylor Phinney, added: “We’ve still got over a year till London, and this has been another stepping stone for us since the Beijing Olympics — it shows we are serious about winning in London.
“It’s now two years in a row that we’ve won it, and we’ll keep focused for next year (at the track world championships) in Melbourne and try to keep that going until London.”
Ed Clancy, Steven Burke, Peter Kennaugh and Andrew Tennant started strongly for Britain in qualifying but failed to make it to the gold medal match.
It later materlialized that Clancy, the reigning Olympic team pursuit champion and world omnium champion, has been ill. He later pulled out of the bronze medal match and was replaced by Sam Harrison.
Burke said: “It was a bit disappointing in qualifying, but we did all we could I suppose — Ed wasn’t himself and we made the best of a bad scenario.
“We had the talent in us, but didn’t deliver on the day. It just didn’t work out. It was one of those things.”
France beats Germany to world team sprint crown
Multiple world champions France beat defending champions Germany to reclaim the coveted men’s team sprint crown here at world track cycling championships Wednesday.
Great Britain took the bronze medal after dominating a young Australian squad in the match for third place.
Frenchmen trio Gregory Bauge, Kevin Sireau and Mickael D’Almeida had set the fastest time in qualifying for the final earlier Wednesday.
And the trio kept their nerve as the Germans lost theirs in the three-lap power event, German starter Rene Enders flying away from compatriots Maximilian Levy and Stefan Nimke at the gun for the start of the race.
Having been beaten in last year’s final by just 0.02 seconds and with the Olympic selection process ongoing, France had plenty of reason to be motivated.
Although all three were solid, D’Almeida looked particularly impressive as he anchored France home to beat Germany by 0.6sec at the line.
French starter Bauge, 26, is the two-time and reigning world champion in the individual sprint and claims his fifth world title in the team event having helped France to victory from 2006-2009.
Sireau, 23, picks up his third gold medal in the event after those he won in 2008 and 2009 while D’Almeida, 23, is world team sprint champion for the first time.
In the bronze medal match the British trio of Jason Kenny, Chris Hoy and Matthew Crampton set a winning time of 44.235 to beat the Australian trio of Daniel Ellis, Jason Niblett and Matthew Glaetzer.
Kwok wins men’s world scratch title
Ho Ting Kwok of Hong Kong was crowned men’s scratch champion Wednesday.
Italian Elia Viviani finished second in the 15km race to take the silver with Morgan Kneisky of France winning the bronze.
Sharakova wins world points title
Tatsiania Sharakova handed Belarus their second gold medal of the world track cycling championships Wednesday when she won the women’s points race.
Jarmila Machachova of the Czech Republic took the silver medal with Italian Giorgia Bronzini winning the bronze.
Panarina claims 500 meter gold
Olga Panarina of Belarus claimed the first gold medal of the 2011 world track cycling championships
with victory in the 500 meter time trial Wednesday.
Frenchwoman Sandie Clair took the silver medal with Germany’s Miriam Welte taking the bronze.
Clair’s time of 33.919 seconds became Panarina’s target after home hope Willy Kanis failed to oust the Frenchwoman from provisional top spot.
Despite a slower start, the Belarussian got well into her stride in the second lap to edge Clair at the finish line in a time of 33.896. Welte clocked a time of 34.496.
The 500 meter time trial, which is no longer an Olympic event, was missing a host of top names who appear to be saving their energy for the women’s sprint tournament later in the week.
Australian Anna Meares decided not to defend the title she won last year, with Britain’s Victoria Pendleton, China’s Guo Shuang and Lithuanian Simona Krupeckaite all pulling out of the event.
The world record is held by Krupeckaite in a time of 33.296.