Great Britain’s track cyclists have made a strong start in the final round of the UCI Track World Cup in Hong Kong, with both the women’s team pursuit and men’s team sprint line-ups qualifying fastest.
The likely 2016 Olympic Games quartet of Laura Trott, Elinor Barker, Ciara Horne and Joanna Rowsell-Shand put in a blistering performance to qualify fastest in the women’s team pursuit by over four seconds. Their time of 4-19.369 was comfortably ahead of second-placed USA (4-23.696).
The GB women will progress to the first round on Saturday, where they will face China.
It must be with some relief for the British camp to see the men’s team sprint squad qualify fastest. Jason Kenny, Philip Hindes and Matt Crampton produced the quickest time, beating Poland by less than a tenth of a second. It means the GB squad go straight through to the gold medal final against Poland tomorrow.
After several changes in line-up since Sir Chris Hoy’s retirement, and some below-par performances in the past few seasons, it now looks as though the GB men’s sprint team have gelled and are producing the power to hit the top just in time for the Olympics.
The women’s team sprint duo of Katy Marchant and Jess Varnish also put in a strong ride, placing second behind Russian outfit Rusvelo and booking their place in the gold medal final.
Trott ended Friday’s session by claiming silver in the women’s scratch race behind Marina Shmayankova (Belarus). British rider Emily Nelson, 19, placed third in the women’s points race, claiming GB’s first medal of the event. Belgian Jolien D’hoore took gold.
The men’s team pursuit line-up of Mark Cavendish, Oliver Wood, Kian Emadi and Chris Latham put in the sixth fastest time, with Australia qualifying fastest.
It’s Cavendish’s first appearance in a Track World Cup since 2009, and he took part alongside a youthful squad in Hong Kong to gain experience.
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Former sprinter Emadi joined the team pursuit line-up as a last-minute replacement for an ill Matt Gibson.
Germain Burton placed 11th in the men’s scratch race behind Thomas Benjamin of France. Irishman Felix English placed fourth.
Cavendish will now line up for the omnium, starting on Saturday – the discipline that he hopes to contest in Rio. Olympic champion Laura Trott will be in action for Great Britain in the women’s omnium. Becky James joins Marchant in the women’s sprint, and Crampton will contest the men’s keirin.