The British team came away from the opening day of the track cycling world championships in Cali with a sense of disappointment after they won just one bronze medal, from the women’s team sprint.
A strong team performance last year in Minsk had lead to hopes that the best funded team in the sport would pick up where they left off one year further in to the Rio Olympic cycle, but it wasn’t to be on day one.
A bronze medal for Becky James and Jess Varnish in the team sprint put a silver lining on the day in which the British men’s team pursuit squad recorded their worst result at a world championships for 15 years.
They posted the eighth fastest time in qualifying, over four seconds slower than the fastest qualifying time set by Denmark. “We didn’t announce it but behind the scenes we’ve had some problems,” admitted team leader Ed Clancy, a double Olympic champion in the event. “We knew a week ago we had our backs against the wall. [Andy] Tennant’s not here, and he usually goes pretty good.”
“Then Burkey, a pretty low profile guy, but he’s one of our very best when he’s on his day. When we set our world record in London he was our strongest rider. We have tried a different approach for these track worlds and perhaps it hasn’t quite paid off. There wasn’t one of us that was really on fire in that.”
In the last 14 world championships Great Britain have only once failed to medal, in 2009 when they were beaten in the bronze medal ride by New Zealand in Poland. Although they are missing key riders, tonight’s result may start ringing a few alarm bells with only two and a half years to go to the Rio Games.
Australia went on to win the gold, retaining their world title from last year, with Denmark in second and New Zealand third. All three teams dipped under four minutes in the finals.
In the men’s team sprint the margins were smaller, but Britain again missed out on a medal ride, qualifying fifth, just over one tenth of a second slower than the French team. “We’re disappointed with the result, but the time itself and the way we rode wasn’t that bad. It could’ve been a little bit tidier,” said Jason Kenny, himself a double Olympic champion in the event.
The gold medal was won by New Zealand who in doing so won their first ever senior world title in a sprint event. “The guys are talented like you wouldn’t believe, and tonight it was perfect,” said their new sprint coach Anthony Peden who only took over the role on the first of October last year.
“We all knew the form was there, but it was execution on the day. They tasted what silver was like last year, a bitter silver by only six hundredths of a second or so, and tonight they didn’t want it to go the same way.”
Dani King was eighth in the women’s scratch race after finding herself boxed in with no where to go in the final few laps. King is reserve for the women’s team pursuit tomorrow after struggling with a post crash injury in the winter.
Watch Becky James and Jess Varnish win bronze in the women’s team sprint
Watch the New Zealand team win their first senior sprint world title
Action resumes on day two with the women’s team pursuit, men’s keirin, men’s indiviual pursuit and women’s 500m tt.