Nicole Cooke got the Olympic Games off to the best possible start for Great Britain, with gold in the women?s road race.
Emma Pooley?s silver in the time trial meant the British Cycling squad were on cloud nine before they even got into the velodrome, where they were expected to sweep all before them.
Total dominance at the World Championships in March has done nothing to dampen down the enthusiasm.
UK Sport has announced it expects 35 medals from the entire Great Britain team, while the sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe wants to exceed that target.
The former head of the Italian Olympic Committee, Luciano Barra, was asked by the BBC to project Great Britain?s Olympic medal tally.
Barra does not make predictions, he makes projections by collating all relevant world championship result in all Olympic sports and applying the results to the Games.
He came up with a daunting tally for Britain?s cyclists. Gold in the women?s BMX, men?s and women?s individual pursuits, men?s team pursuit, men?s and women?s sprint, men?s Madison and Keirin and silver in the men?s team sprint. That would be eight golds and a silver, making cycling by far the best-performing sport for Britain.
Before the Games Cycling Weekly attempted to use a cool, calculating and totally detached eye to weigh up the chances of medals in Beijing.
And as the Games go on, we will compare the prediction with the reality.
Here?s how CW thinks Great Britain will do?
MEN?S ROAD RACE
Jonny Bellis, Steve Cummings, Roger Hammond, Ben Swift
Verdict: No medal. It?ll be a job for Britain?s riders just to finish the mountainous 254-kilometre race.
Outcome: No finishers, but encouraging signs, nevertheless. Jonny Bellis, just 19, did exactly what was asked of him, marking the big break of the race containing Carlos Sastre. He pulled out with five laps to go. Cummings and Hammond quit with three to go, but Swift stayed in the peloton until one lap to go. A great performance for the 20-year-old.
WOMEN?S ROAD RACE
Nicole Cooke, Sharon Laws, Emma Pooley
Verdict: A medal, but who for and what colour? If Cooke is there for the sprint, it could be gold. The other scenario is that Pooley gets away on the final climb. Our prediction: Silver for Cooke.
Outcome: Gold for Cooke, with a sensational and calm performance. Shrugging off her attacking instincts, Cooke kept her eyes on the prize and timed every move to perfection. A brilliantly-won gold.
WOMEN?S TIME TRIAL
Nicole Cooke, Emma Pooley
Verdict: BC kept their cards close to their chest in the run-up to the time trial, even going as far to suggest that no one would take up the two places. That always seemed a little far-fetched.
Outcome: Then we saw the extent of the preparation for Project Pooley. Silver was a fantastic result. Cooke was 15th.
MEN?S TIME TRIAL
Verdict: No medal. Top 15 would be an excellent ride
Outcome: Eleventh was a very fine result indeed. Cummings was in third place until the real big guns raced.
MEN?S TEAM SPRINT
Ross Edgar, Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny, Jamie Staff
Verdict: The French will be very hard to beat. Silver
Outcome: A stunning, slightly unexpected gold, as the Great Britain trio turned the tables on the French. Jason Kenny kept Ross Edgar out of the line-up throughout the competition. GB set a new world?s best time in the qualifying round to put the French on the back foot. Hoy?s tears on the podium showed how much it meant ? the stalwart of the team has been on the receiving end of defeat by the French before, but to win the Olympic gold is the ultimate honour.
MEN?S POINTS RACE
Verdict: Possible medal in an event that is unpredictable. Newton?s won the world title before so gold is not out of the question. We?ll say bronze.
Outcome: We were spot on. Silver was oh-so-nearly in Newton’s grasp and but for the German Roger Kluge’s late burst to win the final sprint, he would have had it. But bronze was a superb result for a rider whose season has been disrupted by a broken collarbone.
MEN?S INDIVIDUAL PURSUIT
Bradley Wiggins, Steven Burke
Verdict: Gold for Wiggins.
Outcome: Wiggins was already nailed on for gold, as the hot, hot favourite. But for Steven Burke to turn brilliant potential into bronze was sensational. Again Britain’s track riders exceed even the greatest expectations.
Chris Hoy, Ross Edgar
Verdict: Gold for Hoy.
Outcome: Hoy has made the Keirin event his own in the past two seasons and he was never really in trouble throughout the competition. Ross Edgar’s silver again showed the strength in depth in the British camp and was a much-deserved prize for a man who has been the perfect team-mate. It must have stung to miss out on the team sprint line-up, but he fought back to get the best result possible.
WOMEN?S INDIVIDUAL PURSUIT
Rebecca Romero, Wendy Houvenaghel
Verdict: Gold for Romero, possible bronze for Houvenaghel.
Outcome: Our prediction comes true once again as Romero won gold, completing her remarkable transformation from silver medal-winning rower to gold medal-winning cyclist in four years. After her world championship ride in March, she was the favourite. Houvenaghel, on previous major championship form, was more of an outsider, but she stepped up brilliantly to set-up the all-British final and win silver. At the start of the Games she would surely have taken that. And again, the best-case scenario is realised by this remarkable, history-making British cycling team.
WOMEN?S POINTS RACE
Verdict: No one is doubting Romero?s speed and endurance but if she were to win, she?d have to take a lap. Lack of competitive experience makes it a very long shot, but we?re willing to be surprised. No medal.
Outcome: Romero rode a smart race. Knowing she couldn’t really mix it in the sprints that come every 10 laps, she tried to be aggressive. One big effort to try to lap the field fell just shy, but it was a bold bid to win a very unlikely medal. In the end she was 11th.
MEN?S TEAM PURSUIT
Steven Burke, Ed Clancy, Paul Manning, Geraint Thomas, Bradley Wiggins
Verdict: World champions, world record holders, Gold.
Outcome: The first ever 3-53 team pursuit ride saw Great Britain thrash Denmark in the final. We were confident of victory but nothing is a given in the team pursuit. For anyone who has followed the rise in British team pursuiting from that bronze medal in Sydney eight years ago, this is the culmination of a decade’s work.
Mark Cavendish & Bradley Wiggins
Verdict: Will be the favourites after their World Championship win. The event has been described by Wiggins as ?a lottery? but Britain has the perfect partnership of endurance and speed. Should win a medal. Gold is definitely within reach.
Outcome: The British pair were watched like hawks. It was almost as if the rest of the field said ‘Anyone but Britain’. Perhaps Wiggins was weary but he had been through two gold medal-winning pursuit competitions. Cavendish looked in great form, and they tried to replicate the move that netted them the rainbow jerseys with 30 laps to go, but it wasn’t to be. Ninth place.
Verdict: Not a foregone conclusion by any means, but Pendleton can ? and will ? win gold simply because, disgracefully, it?s her one and only shot at a medal in this Games. Hopefully by 2012 the inequality in events will be levelled.
Outcome: Was there any doubt at any moment in the entire competition? The closest anyone got to her was Anna Meares in the first race in the final. And even that wasn’t very close. The second was a walk in the park. The best in the world and scandalous that there wasn’t even a Keirin competition here to give Pendleton a shot at a second gold because she’s every bit as authoritative in her field as Hoy is in his.
Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny
Verdict: A medal for Hoy. We?ll say silver
Outcome: Well, that’ll teach us for trying to manage expectation. We only said silver because of the strength in depth in the sprint field. It would only have taken a couple of tough draws against in-form opponents to make life difficult. But in truth, Hoy cruised through. It looked very easy. However, we weren’t wrong because Britain did win silver. Jason Kenny, the revelation of the Games, obliged there.
Verdict: No medal
Verdict: Gold. Is there a hotter favourite than Reade in the entire Games?
MEN?S MOUNTAIN BIKE
Oliver Beckingsale, Liam Killeen
Verdict: Decent outside chance of bronze for Killeen
WOMEN?S MOUNTAIN BIKE
CW?S PREDICTED TALLY
|OLYMPIC GAMES 2008: TRACK|
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