European Track Championships Day One - Great Britain's pursuiters strike gold
Golds in the men's and women's team pursuits, but sprinters miss out on top spots
The road to London 2012 started this evening with the first medals awarded in the European Track Championships in Pruszkow, Poland. With the event counting for qualifying for the Olympic Games in two years' time, the early advantage went to Team GB which took the opening two of four gold medals on offer, adding a silver and bronze before the night was over.
The first gold medal of the evening went to Great Britain in the team pursuit, the quartet of riders including 40-year-old Jason Queally, gold medallist in the Kilo at the Athens Olympics in 2000 but incredibly making his competitive debut in this event.
Queally was joined in the team by Steven Burke, Andy Tennant and Ed Clancy, and while their Russian opponents held the British in check during the first half of the race, the three younger British riders pulled away in the closing stages of the race to seal victory after Queally had peeled off.
While times were not immediately available in the velodrome, the British riders came home in $:00:492 - well down on the World Record of 3:52:314 set two years ago in the Beijing Velodrome, but enough to leave the Russians well beaten.
Next up it was the British women's turn to try and emulate their male counterparts in the women's team pursuit, held over the shorter distance of 3 kilometres and with three team members, not four, although like the men the time s taken at the point the third rider crosses the line.
The British trio of Katie Colclough, Wendy Houvenaghel and Laura Trott started as red hot favourites against Lithuania, but seemed surprisingly slow off the mark, losing ground on the Baltic team during the first lap.
Once they found their rhythm, though, there was only going to be one winner, and by the time the bell was sounded, the three British riders had almost lapped their rivals - another lap or two and they would surely have passed them.
Besides the races to determine who would win gold, there were of course run-offs for the bronze medal in both events. In the men's team pursuit, The Netherlands held off Spain to clinch bronze, while in the women's event, Germany beat Belarus to claim third spot.
The other two events that were decided this evening were the men's and women's team sprints.
The British pairing of Vicky Pendleton and Jess Varnish went off in the last race of the night in an attempt to win Britain's third gold of the evening in the final against France.
France's Clara Sanchez, partnering Sandie Clair, displayed some nerves as she jumped the gun for a false start, causing a slight delay as the riders lapped the circuit then set themselves up again for the start, with discussions between the commissaire and French officials further holding up the race.
Second time around, once the race did get under way, Clair got off to a great start, giving the French a clear advantage at the bell, and while Pendelton pulled back some of the gap on the final lap, the Sanchez crossed first by about a bike length, although a malfunction in the timing system meant that it wasn't immediately certain that the French had won.
Beforehand the male trio of Matt Crampton, Chris Hoy and Jason Kenny raced for bronze against home favourites Poland after missing out on a place in the final, with Germany posting the fastest qualifying time of 43.968 followed by France in 44.102, just 0.047 ahead of the British.
The Poles, urged on by a partisan crowd, pushed the British but Matt Crampton, taking up duties as anchorman, crossed the line half a second ahead of the Pole to take Britain's third medal of the evening.
The gold medal race saw world champions Germany, wearing the rainbow jersey, get off to a flier against the French and in a thrilling race the French seemed to have fought back to gain an edge over their rivals but eventually missed out on gold by 0.2 of a second as Stefan Nimke powered his way to victory with Michael d'Almeida unable to find a response.
Subsequently, the German women won bronze in the Team Sprint over The Netherlands to give their country its third medal of the night.