By Nigel Wynn
Britain's women team pursuiters qualified second fastest on the opening night of Track World Cup round two in Cali, Colombia, on Wednesday evening.
New Zealand's Lauren Ellis, Jaime Nielsen and Alison Shanks set the fastest time in qualification, proving that their gold-medal winning performance at the Oceania track championships last week was no fluke.
However, Wednesday night's 3-24.005 was significantly slower than their 3-19.759 in Invercargill - the third fastest women's pursuit time in history - due to more sluggish track conditions.
The British trio of Wendy Houvenaghel, Sarah Storey and Laura Trott clocked in at 3-24.849, setting up a tantalising gold medal final at the Cali velodrome on Thursday night. The world champions will have a fight on their hands in one of the few remaining opportunities to test their form ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
The bronze medal ride-off will be contested by the USA and Lithuania.
New Zealand's men couldn't quite match the performance of their female counterparts, and qualified second-fastest behind old rivals Australia in the men's team pursuit.
Australia's Luke Durbridge, Rohan Dennis, Michael Hepburn and Mitchel Mulhern posted a time of 4-02.739, nearly two seconds faster than New Zealand's 4-04.612.
The same Kiwi quartet of Marc Ryan, Sam Bewley, Aaron Gate and Jesse Sergent managed to ride the fourth fastest TP time ever, 3-55.295, in the Oceania champs last week so their chances of gold in Cali cannot be written off yet.
Home nation Colombia timed third fastest in the men's qualifiers with 4-06.118. They will ride against Denmark for bronze.
Great Britain did not field a team in the men's pursuit and are only represented in Colombia by Houvenaghel, Storey and Trott. Trott is also scheduled to ride in the women's omnium, and Houvenaghel will contest the individual pursuit.
The second round of the 2011-12 UCI Track World Cup in Cali, Colombia, concludes on Saturday, December 3.
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