GB's men's team pursuit squad sets the fastest pace early in qualification, but disappointment for the women's team sprinters who fail to secure Rio qualification
Great Britain’s men’s team pursuit squad qualified fastest on the opening day of the Track World Championships in London, however, both the men’s and women’s team sprinters failed to get out of their first rounds and missed out on contesting any medals.
For the women’s squad of Jess Varnish and Katy Marchant who finished fifth, this was their last chance to gain Olympic qualification points and means they now miss out on a place in Rio.
The day started with the men’s team pursuit amidst talk of whether the world record of 3.51.369 will be broken this week in the championships. And in the first round of qualifying, the GB quartet of Steven Burke, Jon Dibben, Owain Doull and Wiggins suggested they have the time firmly in their sights, edging Australia and reining champions New Zealand to finish first.
It was a messy qualification for many; last year’s rainbow jersey winner’s New Zealand were out last but big gaps appeared between their riders in the final kilometre, while a Canadian rider accidently unclipped out of his pedal and was dropped early.
Even Wiggins was in danger of dropping his own team-mates at one point. Having already competed one two and a half lap turn on the front, the Tour de France winner moved to the front for his second two-lap stint, before almost moving into the wrong position when swinging off on the changeover.
The quartet finished with a time of 3.55.664 and now face Italy, who finished fourth, in round one on Thursday.
In the sprint events, the women’s pairing of Varnish and Marchant knew it was an all or nothing ride with Olympic qualification on the line, and despite putting in a fast performance it was too little too late. Both riders were critical of the leadership at British Cycling after, blaming inconsistencies in the rider line up during the two-year qualification period as reasons for them failing to secure a place in Rio.
“A lot of frustration, disappointment, disappointed in the organisation. We’re in this position through decisions of other people, not through any fault of our own,” said Marchant.
In the men’s event, Jason Kenny, Phil Hindes and Callum Skinner finished sixth and also missed out on contesting a medal in the evening’s session.
Hindes got the trio off to a fast start, yet gaps formed quite early on between Kenny and Skinner, the latter in man three position. However, Kenny believed it is still a sign of progress ahead of the Olympics this summer.
“It’s a massive step forward on previous years, I think we had all the components here to medal. This is the first time I can honestly say that for a while,” he said. “We still managed to pull off a really fast time, we were hundredths [of a second] off in a ride for a medal.”
The first rainbow jersey of the competition was awarded in the individual pursuit to reining champion Rebecca Wiasak of Australia. In the men’s scratch race, Spain’s Mora Vedri won gold, while Great Britain’s Chris Latham finished ninth on his Worlds debut.
In the women’s team sprint, Russia won gold after 2015 champions China were relegated to silver for an illegal changeover while New Zealand beat the Netherlands in the men’s team sprint to win the final rainbow jersey of the day.