Team GB have won their third cycling gold medal of Rio 2016 this evening with the women’s team pursuit quartet successfully defending their Olympic title and setting a new world record in the process – the third time they have done so in two days.
Earlier today, the USA broke the world record Team GB had set last night as the Americans beat Australia in a time of 4 minutes 12.28 seconds to book their place in the final.
Minutes later, however, Team GB went 0.13 of a second quicker to beat Canada, to set up a final that seemed destined to be as close-run as the men’s team pursuit on Friday when Team GB beat Australia.
In the final, the Americans went out quicker, but by the halfway point the British team of Joanna Rowsell Shand, Laura Trott – both of whom won gold in the event at London 2012 – Elinor Barker and Katie Archibald – were in front.
With the Americans down to three women early, the British women stretched out their advantage, winning by more than 2 seconds in a world record time of 4 minutes 10.23 seconds.
Shortly afterwards, Becky James took silver in the keirin in a race that produced a surprise winner in 22-year-old Dutch rider Elis Ligtlee, a world championship medallist in the sprint and 500m time trial but never in this event. Australia’s Anna Meares, winner of the gold medal in London, was third.
Trott is the first British woman ever to win three Olympic gold medals, and will be going for a fourth in the omnium, which she won on its Olympic debut in London.
She said: “To come out and do that again – [coach] Paul Manning said to us four years ago that 4.10.00 would win the Olympics and we were doing 4.21.00 at that time – that’s a second a lap.
“We broke the world record in training, doing a 4.13.00 in our holding camp in Newport. We knew a record was on the cards in the qualifier. It felt surreal in the qualifier, but in the second round it just felt easy. I didn’t believe we were going to do it.
“I’ve never been in a team that feels so seamless. You can tell that everyone was giving 100 per cent to get to the finish line first and I could not be prouder right now.”
Rowsell Shand added: “I’m incredibly proud of the whole team. I’m quite surprised at the time – I knew that kind of time was possible and I knew that time was in us.
“In the first two rides America were close to us, they were only a second behind us in qualifying and then a tenth in the next round, so we knew it would be a close battle. We knew it would come down to the last laps.
“My turn was finished with three laps to go and I could see the Americans and I could see our team and I knew we could finish it off.”
Team GB is guaranteed another gold medal in the men’s sprint, with Jason Kenny and Callum Skinner both qualifying for the final.
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.