The British track team wasted no time in getting back to business and shedding their Olympic hangover as they won two golds and one silver medal in the new Sir Chris Hoy velodrome in Glasgow today.
On the first day of competition at the second world cup of the season they won the women’s team sprint and team pursuit and took silver in the men’s team sprint. A crash in qualifying for the British men’s team pursuit squad prevented the young foursome from going through to the medal rides as their time was good enough for a shot at gold.
The three medals came courtesy of a mixture of London 2012 veterans and others just out of the junior ranks. The most decorated of the latter is Elinor Barker, the 18-year-old is junior world time trial champion, and junior European team and individual pursuit champion.
Riding in place of Joanna Rowsell who is recovering from illness, Barker slotted in perfectly with Laura Trott and Dani King to beat Australia and win the team pursuit despite a small setback in their first full three kilometre ride together. “Qualifying didn’t go that great. We had to make a few adjustments,” said Trott. “We had a break after the Games, so we were never going to come into this with top form, we just had to kind of stick it together in the qualification and hope for the best.”
“Dani didn’t have a great ride, [but] we knew we could produce better. We changed two things from qualification, me and Elinor had to do half a lap longer each to take a bit away from Dani.”
King had let Trott’s wheel go after a lap and a half turn toward the end of their qualification ride, seemingly to give Barker a slightly easier ride, but the effort came back to bite her as she saw Trott ride away. Luckily King held on to her pace and despite breaking up, the trio posted the second fastest time to get in to the gold final where they made amends.
“I didn’t have a great qualification,” King admitted. “I had four weeks completely off my bike after the Games. It takes longer for some (to get back) than others. I was never going to come into this with top form. Elinor stepped up. She went ten seconds quicker than she’s ever gone before. She’s come in so late, and learnt so much.”
Their gold wasn’t the first for the British team in the countries newest velodrome. That came courtesy of the recently formed duo of Jess Varnish and Becky James in the team sprint. Varnish, the only British track rider not to win an Olympic medal thanks to a disqualification, is about half a second off her pre Olympic form, and Becky James can hardly be expected to fill Victoria Pendleton’s shoes, but the pair are showing a lot of promise.
With four years to go in the current Olympic cycle, this new pairing are already just one second off world record pace. They will go faster this winter, and faster still in years to come. “I’m really chuffed,” James said. “I put a little bit of a bigger gear on [for the final], we tried something different and went and did a big PB, so I’m really happy.”
There were no disqualifications in either the men’s or the women’s team sprint as the rules have thankfully changed after the debacles at the world championships and Olympics where so many teams were eliminated on a technicality. Now the leading rider has to pass over the pursuit line with both wheels before swinging up, an easier target when travelling at over 60km/h.
Ed Clancy did himself justice in the men’s team sprint, coming in to the man three position and therefore filling the boots of none other than Sir Chris Hoy himself. “I didn’t want to let the two Olympic champions down in their own event,” he said. “As long as I got on the wheel and I delivered the best last lap I could, I’d be pretty happy with that. It’s a place to start. We have got somewhere to go.”
The British trio lost out to the Germans, who fielded an experienced line-up, but only by three tenths of a second. Clancy doesn’t yet seem entirely convinced with his decision to swap the team pursuit for the team sprint, but as first results go it’s more than encouraging.