Five British riders stood on the podium to collect their team sprint silver medals in Apeldoorn. Alongside 29-year-old Jason Kenny, one of Britain’s greatest Olympians and the ‘old man’ of British Cycling’s sprint squad, stood Phil Hindes (25), Ryan Owens (22), Joseph Truman (21) and Jack Carlin (20).
Over the course of three rides on the opening night, the five riders were swapped in and out of the three-man event to win Britain’s first team sprint medal in seven years. This level of flexibility is very different to the team’s traditional approach, but in part has been forced upon them by the strength in depth the squad currently enjoys.
“The British sprint team has taken a bit of slack for not performing outside the Olympic Games.” Admitted head coach Justin Grace. “We wanted to be back up there. It was 13 years straight on the podium before [2011 their last medal in the event], so after seven years of not being on there, I wanted to do that. I thought it would be really good for the team culture.”
Grace put the success down to a number of factors but said that “the competition we’ve got definitely helps, there’s no doubt a bigger program can raise it to another level.” Sixth man, and Olympic champion in the event, Callum Skinner was sitting out the team sprint this year as he focuses on the kilometre in order to improve his start.
A key change is around the crucial man one position. Without a rider who can ride a sub 17.5 second opening lap a team will struggle to make the podium. Having concentrated on that position since 2012, Phil Hindes is now in the process of trying to transform himself in to a match sprinter. Jack Carlin adequately stepped in to his shoes in Apeldoorn (he also rode man one in Hong Kong last year when the team didn’t medal) riding consistently through the three, tightly packed races, even matching his 17.182 sec PB in the gold final.
“GB have been known for the last twelve years for being very strong at man one and that roll is a hard one to take up. There’s probably three of us now in the team that could pull out a world-class time. Ryan Owens can, and Phil can still do it. Every rider can probably fill two positions right now and that fills us with confidence.” Carlin said.
“Obviously we came here to win, but there was no way we were going to beat the Dutch team today.”
Both the men’s and women’s team pursuit squads looked comfortable in their qualifying and round one races. The women were the second fastest team on the track after the USA, while the men were fastest in both their rounds putting out 3-55.714 and 3-56.335 minute rides to put them in the final against Denmark on day two.
The absence of Australia, winners of the event in six of the previous eight years, will always leave a question mark (Britain’s old foes chose to focus on the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast this year), but the times are impressive for a young team still very much in their development phase.
The Netherlands took home two of the three gold medals on offer on day one, along with another silver they made for a great start for the home nation. Before the men won the team sprint ahead of Great Britain, erstwhile track rider Kirsten Wild produced a powerful display in the 10km scratch race, riding away from the field in the last five or six laps. Wild had been caught back in the bunch as Katie Archibald set off in pursuit of the splintering break. By the time Archibald had bridged the half lap gap she was starting to suffer and couldn’t hold on to Wild when she stormed past.
The pair had made their move and both had to keep going or be swamped by what was left of the bunch. Wild easily held on to win, celebrating down the back straight with half a lap to go, while Archibald finished in sixth. The Scot had ridden the team pursuit earlier in the afternoon as she starts her punishing five day schedule. She is set to also ride the omnium and Madison.
Germany were back on the top step of the women’s team sprint podium as the multiple world champions Miriam Welte and Kristina Vogel again combined to win gold. The Netherlands were again on the podium, coming second. Russia took the bronze while Britain’s Katie Marchant and Lauren Bate finished sixth.