LONDON (AFP) — Host Great Britain will take a huge step towards restoring its track cycling supremacy if it comes away with the coveted men’s Olympic team pursuit gold later Friday.
Britain won the men’s team sprint gold on Thursday to hand Chris Hoy his fifth Olympic gold and give fans a taste of what might come their way in the days ahead.
On the second of six consecutive days in the London Olympic Velodrome Friday, Britain has its sights set on gold again in the 4km team pursuit after seeing Ed Clancy, Steven Burke, Peter Kennaugh and Geraint Thomas set a new world record of 3:52.499 in qualifying.
Many say a time of around 3:51 will be required to win gold in the 4km event. If that is the case, Australia, Russia, New Zealand and Denmark will have to step up.
Australia’s four-man team, regarded as Britain’s closest rival, could only finish second fastest in 3:55.694 on Thursday. New Zealand was third in 3:57.607, Denmark fourth in 3:58.298 and Russia fifth in 3:59.265.
The two fastest teams in the first round on Friday go directly to the gold medal match, with the next two fastest teams fighting for the bronze.
And British coach Dan Hunt believes his team, which could end up using Andrew Tennant at some stage in the proceedings to save tired legs, can go faster.
“All we’ve done here is state our intent. I think we can go quicker,” said Hunt. “There’s still a little bit of work to do there. It’s about spreading the workload out in a slightly different way, now that we know who’s got good legs and who hasn’t we can overload some and offload others.”
Victoria Pendleton meanwhile could hand the host more gold, if she emerges from the demanding keirin tournament and a possible battle with Australia’s Anna Meares. Both riders had been bidding for three golds from the sprint, team sprint and keirin, but on the first day those ambitions were curtailed.
Pendleton and sprint teammate Jess Varnish were relegated for an infringement in the team sprint first round, while Meares and her partner Kaarle McCulloch could only win bronze behind champion Germany and China, who was second.
Meares has won the past two world titles in the keirin, which makes its Olympic debut for the women, but fears Pendleton’s setback on Thursday could prove a formidable motivating tool.
“The worst thing you can do is add emotion to a bunch of sprinters; they can use it as motivation. Vicki is going to be there looking for the win,” said Meares. “I am going to be there looking for the win and also the Germans are running on a high.”