Record-setting Britain smash track cycling rivals

03 August 2012 09:46

Two days, four finals and three golds. It just couldn't get any better for Britain's track cycling team on their home Olympics.

A day after their 2008 Olympic team sprint champions combined to hand Chris Hoy a British record-equalling fifth gold, the hosts turned up and showed the rest of the world how it's done.

The British pursuit quartet of Ed Clancy, Peter Kennaugh, Geraint Thomas and Steven Burke, who beat their own world record on Thursday during qualifying, were even faster on their way to gold.

Experts had predicted a time bordering 3min 51sec would be required to win the Olympic title in one of track's most coveted events.

And after lowering their own world record of 3:53.295 from April during qualifying on Thursday to 3:52.499, Britain turned on the turbo to win in a stunning time of 3:51.659.

In doing so Britain became the first team since West Germany in 1976 to defend the team pursuit title.

Australia, who failed to medal in Beijing, finished second for the silver in 3:54.581 with New Zealand beating Russia to the bronze.

Recently-crowned Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins was, along with basketball star Kobe Bryant, among the many famous faces in the crowd.

And the Englishman, who won time trial gold earlier this week to claim his fourth Olympic title, could only be impressed by the men he left behind after Beijing to embark on what has become a hugely successful road racing career.

"It's just phenomenal. To experience a home Olympics is something special, to win gold and see these boys do what they have done tonight is incredible," said Wiggins, who was mobbed by fans wherever he went.

Alongside Welshman Geraint Thomas, England's Ed Clancy was in the team with Wiggins that took the Olympic team pursuit title in 2008.

But he said winning in London gave the gold a whole new meaning.

"We've talked about how good it'd be to defend it, and there's the Aussies thing, the 'Ashes on Wheels', that sort of thing," said Clancy.

"It's just been going on and on and on. The last two or three weeks in training, things were looking good and we were feeling good, but you never know what other people are going to turn up with.

"Just to make it happen, just to put your hands in the air, do a new world record, and it felt like everyone here was cheering for us. It was just incredible."

Victoria Pendleton, the Olympic sprint champion from Beijing, showed she had got over her relegation from the women's inaugural team sprint event on Thursday.

In what is her third and last Olympic, the Englishwoman took command of the inaugural women's keirin final to finish just ahead of China's Guo Shuang and Sarah Lee Wai-Sze of Hong Kong.

Australia's Anna Meares, tipped as Pendleton's big rival in the wake of some strong performances since her Beijing silver, could only finish fifth.

"This is the greatest moment in my career so far," said a tearful Pendleton.

"I think a lot of people kind of wrote me off after the 2011 worlds. I had a really rubbish year - injury, personal issues and family issues; things that nearly made me give up - and a lot of people thought I was past my best, and I just wanted to prove them wrong."

On Saturday, Britain will be expecting more gold from their women in the inaugural 3 km team pursuit after they topped the times in qualifying.

But their stunning Olympic displays, in the wake of four years of comparatively underwhelming performances at world championship level, are not pleasing everyone.

"Yes, I'm puzzled by these performances," French Track Cycling chief Isabelle Gautheron told AFP.

"They haven't dominated for the past four years, they were among the best teams in the world along with Australia, German and France.

"Here, they're crushing everybody. The women (in the team pursuit) are four seconds faster than everybody else."