Men's team pursuit disaster gives Great Britain Olympic headache

Quartet now faces a winding road to Paris qualification, but there is no reason to panic, coach Ben Greenwood says

Team GB in team pursuit at Jakarta Nations Cup 2023
(Image credit: Getty)

Great Britain’s men’s team pursuit squad are facing a bigger challenge than expected to qualify for the Paris Olympics, following a calamitous run at the World Championships

The quartet, who won the world title in Paris last year, took a shock exit in the qualifying round in Glasgow last Thursday, when Charlie Tanfield crashed on the final bend and the team failed to post a time. 

Following the Championships, in which Denmark won the event, Great Britain has tumbled down the Olympic rankings, and is among the last of the 10 spots. The team will now have to take a circuitous route to ensuring Paris qualification, explained their coach Ben Greenwood.

“We got to second in the rankings by doing well in Euros and the Nations Cups, so we’ll do that again next year,” Greenwood told Cycling Weekly. “It just makes it a little more complicated.” 

Had Great Britain passed qualifying at Worlds, the team - which comprised Dan Bigham, Ethan Vernon, Ollie Wood and Tanfield - would have earned enough points to guarantee their place at the Olympics. “We were going to come top eight for sure,” the coach said. “We were going to qualify second, which means even if you have a mishap in the next round, you’re eighth at worst.” 

Instead, Greenwood lived his “worst day of coaching”, as he watched his rider crash alone trying to close a gap. His team was then forced to bow out.

How to qualify for the Olympics

The qualification period for the Paris Olympics runs until 14th April 2024, with the top 10 team pursuit squads securing a place at the Games. Points at the recent World Championships were boosted by a factor of 1.5, meaning they were particularly lucrative for nations. 

The full rankings will also include points from each team’s two best Nations Cup results in each of 2023 and 2024, as well as the last two editions of the European (or relevant Continental) Championships. Nations Cup victories yield points at a standard factor of 1.0, while the Euros are valued less at 0.75. 

Despite the hurdle now facing them, Greenwood is confident that his quartet will be in Paris, competing for a gold medal. “With the Nations Cups, we’re probably going to have to go to all three,” Greenwood explained. “We’ll go with strong teams to two, and a slightly younger team to the third. But even the younger team still got fourth or fifth [this year], so our B team can still beat most A teams, to be honest.”

Next year’s second and third Nations Cup rounds will take place in Hong Kong and Canada, with the first still to be confirmed. The team had initially planned to only do two, but will now have to pool more resources to travel around the world. “We’re going to have to look at the overall budget and see how we use it,” Greenwood said, but added that the additional cost is “not a big concern”. 

The coach is also hopeful that Ineos Grenadiers rider Ethan Hayter will be available for selection for next year’s events. The 24-year-old, a key cog in the quartet, is recovering from a collarbone fracture and was replaced by Tanfield in the line-up for Glasgow. 

On Saturday night, Great Britain's women's team pursuit squad won the World Championships, earning their first rainbow jerseys in the event since 2014. 

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Tom Davidson
News and Features Writer

Tom joined Cycling Weekly as a news and features writer in the summer of 2022, having previously contributed as a freelancer. He is the host of The TT Podcast, which covers both the men's and women's pelotons and has featured a number of prominent British riders. 

An enthusiastic cyclist himself, Tom likes it most when the road goes uphill and actively seeks out double-figure gradients on his rides. 

He's also fluent in French and Spanish and holds a master's degree in International Journalism.