Australia last night regained what has become track cycling’s equivalent of the Ashes when they comprehensively beat holders and Olympic champions Great Britain to win the men’s team pursuit in the UCI Track World Championships. The first day of competition in the Belarus capital, Minsk, also saw bronze in the women’s team sprint. While no rainbow jerseys were won, it was an encouraging start for Great Britain as building for Rio 2016 begins in earnest.
In the past 12 world championships, only once has a country other than Australia or Great Britain won the men’s team pursuit, when Denmark took the title in 2009. During that period, the gold medal race has been disputed by Great Britain and Australia on five occasions.
The British line-up included two of the four men who successfully defended the Olympic title in London last summer, Ed Clancy and Stephen Burke. Andy Tennant, the member of the Team GB squad who didn’t ride at the Olympics, and Welsh youngster Sam Harrison, completed the line-up.
The difference in time set in qualifying, less than half a second, suggested that the final would be much closer than it proved to be, but the Australian quartet of Alex Edmondson, Michael Hepburn, Alexander Morgan and Glenn O’Shea led from the start and stretched their advantage throughout, winning by more than four seconds in a time of 3:56.751, despite riding the last few laps without O’Shea.
“It’s always disappointing to lose, you come here trying to win but all we can do is our best and I think between the four of us we gave it all and left it on the track,” reflected Tennant afterwards.
“We didn’t have it as a unit and we’ve got things to work on. There’s bright prospects coming up and snapping at our heels so that’s going to push everyone forward."
With Victoria Pendleton having retired after the Olympics and Jess Varnish out injured, Victoria Williamson stepped up to partner Becky James in the team sprint, the pair setting the third fastest time in qualifying to set up a bronze medal run-off against Australia, represented by Kaarle McCulloch and Stephanie Morton.
The Australians led that race at halfway, but James powered through on the second lap to take the medal. The gold medal race saw Germany also come from behind to defeat China.
Great Britain didn’t have a representative in the women’s individual pursuit, won for the fifth time by Sarah Hammer of the United States, but did have an entrant in the men’s kilo in the shape of 20-year-old Kian Emadi, who today faces the task of filling Sir Chris Hoy’s role in the team sprint here.
Emadi set what was for a while the fastest qualifying time, but finished off the podium as Francois Pervis of France, Simon Van Velthooven of New Zealand and Germany’s Joachim Eilers took gold, silver and bronze respectively.
Today's programme, with details of TV and online coverage, is as follows:
BBC coverage: 16:00-19:00 GMT on Red Button and online, 16:15-18:00 GMT on BBC Two, 16:00 GMT on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra
M - Individual pursuit Qualifying
W - Team pursuit Qualifying
M - Team sprint Qualifying
W - 500 m t.t. Final
M - Individual pursuit Finals 3-4 & 1-2
W - 500 m t.t. Award ceremony
M - Individual pursuit Award ceremony
W - Team pursuit Finals 3-4 & 1-2
M - Scratch 15 km Final
W - Team pursuit Award ceremony
M - Team sprint Finals 3-4 & 1-2
M - Scratch 15 km Award ceremony
M - Team sprint Award ceremony
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.