Another fantastic day for Great Britain in the London Velodrome as the Men’s Team Pursuit squad take Gold with a World Record time, the Women’s Team Pursuit squad set a World Record in Qualifying and Victoria Pendleton takes Gold in the Keirin!
Another fantastic day of competition at the velodrome opened with the First Round of the Women’s Keirin. Three heats would see two riders qualify automatically with the others going through to a Repechage.
In the first heat coming Ekaterina Gnidenko of Russia rode most of the first lap on the blue before settling down at the back of the line. Clara Sanchez of France sat on the back wheel of the Derny with Lisandra Guerra behind her and Germany’s Kristina Vogel in third place behind.
As the pacer pulled off, Vogel led it out and held all the way to the line to take it from Gnidenko. They went through to the Second Round – in effect, the Semi-Finals – with the rest going to the Reps.
Despite Kaalre McCullough appearing on the start sheets, it was no surprise to see Anna Meares replace her for Heat Two. And her ongoing duel with Victoria Pendleton was on immediately, with the current and former World Champions drawn together.
Meares settled in to second place with Pendleton on the Derny’s wheel and it was Meares and Kanis who went for it as the Derny left the track. Pendleton seemed to be swamped as the field swept past her and she moved back to fifth but she found another gear and surged back through the pack.
Meares and Pendleton dominated the final lap and cruised through to the Second Round. Both eased up on the run in, but Pendleton made sure she took the win – and made sure Meares knew it.
The final heat saw pre-race favourite Simona Krupeckaite of Lithunia on the back of the Derny with Shuang Guo of China on her wheel but when the Derny pulled off, the race stalled with Krupeckaite a couple of bike lengths clear, looking back at the pack and controlling the pace.
Guo kicked some life into proceedings and took the initiative – and the heat – but Krupeckaite held on for second, ensuring that all three heats went to form.
In the first of the Repechages, Wai Sze Lee of Hong Kong rode away from the pack to book her place in the Second Round with Willy Kanis of the Netherlands and Monique Sullivan of Canada – who just managed to hold off Cuba’s Lisandra Guerra on the line – also going through.
Sanchez swept round the outside of the field at the bell in the second Rep and took the win from Natasha Hansen of New Zealand and Daniela Larreal of Colombia.
Lee took station behind the Derny in the first of the Second Round heats but it was Kanis, Meares, and Krupeckaite who made the running as the Derny pulled off. Meares was ahead at the bell and held on comfortably with Sullivan and Lee not far behind. Krupeckaite, incredibly, was nowhere to be seen…
Guo shot forward at the gun to claim pole position at the back of the Derny with Pendleton easing in behind her. Pendleton eased off, giving herself ‘space to race’ and surged alongside as the bike pulled off, taking the lead at the bell. The Great Britain rider took the heat from Sanchez and Guo.
With the exception of Krupeckaite – replaced by the on-form Lee who took a ‘surprise’ Bronze at the Worlds in Melbourne – the line-up for the Final was predictable – but that just meant it was going to be a cracking race.
Pendleton and Meares both looked on really good form but this was the first chance to see them head-to-head. The result here could set the tone for the Sprint competition.
Guo was flying in the Team Sprint but looked off the pace today. Was she just sandbagging?
Guo took position behind the Derny again – a suprising move, perhaps – it certainly didn’t work the first time. Pendleton sat three back, Meares fifth in line.
With coach Jan van Eijden shouting advice from the track apron, Pendleton again started to make herself some space to behind Lee with Meares doing the same thing further down the line. As the Derny came off, Meares flew to the front and tried to take control of the race, but then Pendleton eased serenely past to lead by the bell. Guo and Lee were on her wheel throughout the final lap and the three pulled away from the field as Pendleton cruised home to take Gold from Guo. Lee’s fine form earned her the Bronze while Meares cruised home, possibly regretting her decision to go for the long effort.
There was some consternation in the crowd as the Comms scrutinised the slow motion video footage, but there was to be no repeat of last night’s drama.
GOLD Victoria Pendleton GBR
SILVER Shuang Guo CHN
BRONZE Wai Sze Lee HKG
And so to the Men’s Team Pursuit. The previous day’s Qualifying rides seeded the teams for the First Round, which would see the winners of Heats 3 and 4 progress to the Gold Medal ride with the fastest two times form the remaining winners and the losers of those Heats contesting the Bronze.
In Heat 1, Spain eased steadily ahead at the kilometre mark and continued to take big chunks out of Colombia, which was a bit of a surprise given how close they were in qualifying. Just after half distance the catch looked to be on, but it never quite happened. Both teams were down to three inside the last kilometre but it didn’t matter. Spain clocked 3:59.520 – a big improvement on yesterday’s ride but didn’t look quite
quick enough to make the medal rides.
Heiko Salzwedel’s Russian ‘A Team’ looked back to their best and looked set to give the Netherlands a hard time. They were comfortably ahead at the halfway point – and ahead of their qualifying pace. They also got close to the catch and got a bit of a tow from the Dutch. The time of 3:57.237 was impressive and gave them a chance of pushing out on of the runners-up from the top two heats.
The all antipodean Heat 3 saw World Championship Silver and Bronze medlists Australia and New Zealand take the track together, battling for a place in the Gold medal ride.
Australia were marginally ahead at the kilometre mark but were behind their qualifying pace. The Kiwis dug in and took some time back but Australia eased ahead again in the last kilometre to clock 3:54.317 – a second and a half up on their time from Qualifying. New Zealand fell apart on the run in but still booked themselves a Bronze Medal ride with a 3:56.442.
The last of the heats saw an exhibition from the Great Britain quartet. Their lap times over the opening kilometre were only around a second off Chris Hoy’s Team Sprint lap. They were half a second up on the Danes after 500m and consistently ahead of World Record schedule.
The result was never in doubt, but the Danes put in a good performance early on. As Great Britain eased out to an almost 3 second lead at 3km, though, the Danes started to falter. Great Britain eased off to clock 3:52.743 but the Danes faded, too. Great Britain were 2.8 seconds up at 3km and went on to clock 3:52.743 – just two tenths off their own new World Record. Denmark just couldn’t hold their pace and missed out on a Bronze medal ride by a tenth of a second – Russia going through to race NZ for Bronze.
In the Minor Finals, Men’s Team Finals the Netherlands pipped Colombia for 7th in a closer ride than the First Round might have suggested. Spain opened a big lead over Denmark in the race for 5th but with just over 1km to go the balance tipped the other way and Denmark clawed back over a second and a half to take 5th by 0.075 seconds.
In the Bronze Medal ride Aaron Gate replaced Westley Gough in the New Zealand squad and it seemed to give the Kiwis the lift they needed. They were comfortably inside their earlier times and 0.4 seconds up on Russia at the 1km mark. By half distance, though, Russia had eased ahead a fraction but New Zealand weren’t done. With 1km to go the Kiwis were back in front – half a second ahead but down to 3 riders. It didn’t matter – New Zealand hung on to take the Bronze with a fantastic second 2km and a superb time of 3:55.952.
And so to the Final. This was what the crowd had come to see, but the way the Australians had closed the gap since the Qualification rides suggested it could be a lot closer than we thought just 24 hours ago.
The home crowd weren’t disappointed. The Great Britain squad dismissed as geriatrics by the Australians in April were half a second up at the end of the first lap.
The first kilo took Great Britain 1:02.518 but Australia had clawed some time back and were within two tenths. That was as close as they got. By the halfway point Great Britain were 0.6s up and Australia were dropping back lap by lap. With four laps to go the gap was up to 1.5 seconds and there was no let up. Great Britain took the Gold with a phenomenal 3:51.659 – yet another new World Record.
GOLD Great Britain – Ed Clancy, Steven Burke, Peter Kennaugh, Geraint Thomas
SILVER Australia – Jack Bobridge, Glenn O’Shea, Rohan Dennis, Michael Hepburn
BRONZE New Zealand – Jesse Sergent, Aaron Gate, Sam Bewley, Marc Ryan
Women’s Team Pursuit Qualifying
The Women’s Team Pursuit competition kicked off with a Qualifying session to reduce field from 10 nations to 8 before tomorrow’s First Round proper.
Belarus were up first and looked tidy, if not spectacularly quick. This is the first time the event has appeared in the Olympics, so their time of 3:22.850 was a new Record. It was only 4 seconds off the World Record, too, and looked as though it might be enough to qualify for the First Round.
Ukraine were behind Belarus’ schedule as they entered the last kilometre and slipped further behind as they hit the bell. They crossed the line with a time of 3:25.160 which – with a lot of faster teams to come – looked precarious.
Ukraine looked even more likely to miss the cut as China posted 1:09.446 for the opening kilo – a second up on Belarus, but from that point on things started to go wrong. By half distance China were already in danger of losing a rider with the lead rider slotting in to the gap ahead of her team mate several times. It was a ragged ride but, for a while, it was quick. They were a second up at 2km but then the strain started to show on the clock. With 500m to go they were down on Belarus and they lost the third rider at the bell. Their time of 3:26.049 booked Belarus’s place in the final and looked certain to send China home.
The next heat saw a quick start from the Netherlands, clocking 1:09.609 – four tenths up – at 1000m. They were a second up at 2km. and put in a good, solid ride to clock 3:21.602 and ensure that they would make the First Round.
The Germans were on track to join them with 2:15.476 at 2km. They had added Time Trial Silver medalist Judith Arndt to their line-up and it seemed to work. Just off the Netherlands’ pace by the end, but 3:22.058 was the second fastest time so far.
Canada were the first of the real medal hopes to take to the track with an inexperienced but very quick trio of Tara Whitten, Gillian Carleton and Jasmin Glaesser. Second fastest at the 1km mark, they were well off their best form clocking 1:10.088 for the opening kilo. They were still quick
est at 2km – by 0.27 seconds and then an incredibly quick closing kilometre took almost two seconds out of the Netherlands – despite a disappointing last lap. 3:19.816 is quick, but it’s over a second slower than their best.
Sarah Hammer, Dotsie Bausch and Jennie Reed were up next for the USA – a unique combination of (relative) youth, multiple individual pursuit World Champion and Keirin World Champion, you just knew it would be fast and furious – and it was.
A phenomenal start saw them three tenths up at 500m and their 1km time of 1:09.576 was fastest by half a second. They faded a little to 2:13.628 – still 8 tenths up on Canada – at 2km. And then it all went wrong. Another last lap collapse must have hurt their time but 3:19.406 was only a second off world class and was another Olympic Record.
By now Ukraine and China were out of it, barring a disaster in the last three heats. Australia weren’t likely to do them any favours and Annette Edmondson, Melissa Hoskins and Josephine Tomic, the second fastest trio in history, were looking to ease through their heat.
Sure enough, 1:09.314 was the fastest opening 1000m so far and they were very close to the US schedule for most of the next kilometre at the moment – up and down a tenth or so from lap to lap.
2:14.2 at 2km was almost a second off the Americans and they appeared to be slipping back. Still, they were almost certain to have a better last lap than they Americans and would hopefully claw something back.
And claw it back they did – finishing on 3:19.719 – second place and three tenths behind the USA with two teams still to ride. They would have been disappointed with that, but with two teams left it did, at least, guarantee them a place in the top half of the draw for the First Round.
The New Zealand squad of Lauren Ellis, Jaime Nielsen and Alison Shanks had a good shot at the top of the leaderboard. They’re quick anyway, but the USA’s time looked vulnerable. They were just up at 500m – but there really wasn’t anything in it.
A 1:09.234 opening kilo put them 0.3s up on the US time and a 2:13.612 left them a few hundredths ahead of the fastest time at 2km. But it was starting to look a bit ragged and it started to slip away in the run-in. 3:20.421 was only fourth fastest with Great Britain still to go, which would almost certainly leave them in the second half of the draw, battling for Bronze at best.
The track seemed to be running a little slower than it had the on the opening evening, so it remained to be seen what the World Champions – and World Record holders – Great Britain could do. Laura Trott, Dani King and Joanna Rowsell were planning to ride at World Record pace – but the question was whether they would they back off given the times from the other heats.
The answer came within 250m with the Great Britain squad half a second up on the USA within a lap. Had they gone off too fast?
1:08.609 – over a second up at the kilometre mark. 2:12.161 at 2km – a second and a half ahead of the USA and up on their own World Record pace. And they didn’t back off – by the close they were almost four seconds up on the USA to smash the World Record with a time of 3:15.669.
There are two rides to go, but who would bet against a fourth Great Britain Gold Medal in the velodrome on Day 3?
1 Great Britain 3:15.669
2 USA 3:19.406
3 Australia 3:19.719
4 Canada 3:19.816
5 New Zealand 3:20.421
6 Netherlands 3:21.602
7 Germany 3:22.058
8 Belarus 3:22.850