London’s new Olympic Velodrome got its first taste of competition this evening, and the good news for the designers that the roof managed to stay on despite the crowd doing their best to raise it as they cheered Great Britain’s men’s and women’s team pursuit squads on their way to securing a place to race for gold in the final.
Both put in the second-fastest times of the evening in their respective events, with the women’s team of Wendy Houvenaghel, Jo Rowsell and Laura Trott riding at a world record-breaking pace until they slowed up towards the end to finish in 3:21.370, behind the time that had earlier been set by Canada of 3:20.786.
Paul Manning, team pursuit gold medalist at Beijing and now coach to the women’s team, was quoted on the British Cycling website as saying: “We’ve got 24 hours now so it’s quite a productive time to look at the four riders and see who we use.”
Manning reportedly said that Dani King could be brought in for the final, and that the enthusiasm of the home crowd might have distracted the team from the task at hand.
“The crowd got behind them and we got excited about that.
“We’ve just got to remain focus on our goals for the ride. Despite that we still got second. That’s what you’ve got to do, get into the top two and go for the win in the race scenario.”
Later on, the men’s team with two of Manning’s Beijing team mates, Geraint Thomas and Ed Clancy, plus Peter Kennaugh and Steven Burke, put in what for a while was the quickest time of the evening, and the first of less than four minutes over the 4-kilometre distance, stopping the clock a 3:58.446.
Only Australia, the penultimate team out on the track tonight, proved able to beat that time, Jack Bobridge, Rohan Denis, Alexander Edmondson and Michael Hepburn completing their 16 laps in 3:57.885 .
Afterwards Clancy told the BBC: "We were really mindful to be in our own bubble.”
Referring to Australia, he said: “They've got a super-star team at the moment and I think they're the favourites going into London.”
Turning to the subject of the capacity crowd, and a highly partisan one at that – a call from the MC to give the German team a bit of encouragement earlier in the evening had apparently been met with stony silence – Clancy commeted: "I can't believe 6,000 people have come to watch us qualify - it was mental.
"There was a wall of noise the whole 16 laps. It didn't die down one bit."
Australia will race the Netherlands in the women’s bronze medal tie ahead of tomorrow’s Greta Britain versus Canada final, while in the men’s event, on Sunday New Zealand will face off against Belgium ahead of the first of what promises to be a succession of showdowns between Great Britain and Australia on the track during 2012.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.