By Sophie Smith
Glenn O'Shea admits Great Britain has been a step above Australia on the track at the London Olympic Games but is at a loss to explain why.
The 23-year-old finished fifth in the men's omnium yesterday after taking the lead ahead of the final two events and was part of the Australia quartet that won silver behind GB in the team pursuit on Friday.
"Obviously they're doing something right, there's no doubt about that," O'Shea told Cycling Weekly today.
"The last three or four years, in between the Olympics, they've always been around the mark but we've dominated. We always knew they were going to come out firing on all cylinders here at a home Olympics but we probably didn't expect them to be going this well."
Australia won two of the four men's team pursuit world championships in the London 2012 cycle with its archrival unable to win rainbow bands, as it had done on three occasions in the lead-up to a successful Beijing campaign, until this year.
GB broke its own world record at the April world titles in Melbourne to win gold ahead of Australia and did so again in front of a home crowd here with Ed Clancy and Geraint Thomas claiming their second consecutive Olympic title in 3:51.659.
"I think their focus is different to ours. We focused on all the major competitions and we had a lot of success," O'Shea said.
"It'd be nice if people don't forget Australia topped the medal tally at all the world titles for the last few years. Obviously GB has solely been focused on the Olympics and that's not to say we haven't. We've focused on the world titles but our main goal has been the Olympics. I think we've performed better than what we have at the world titles it's just GB has stepped up 50 per cent and we've stepped up 25 per cent.
"We prepared in a way that we thought would win us the gold medal and it didn't quite come off. We'll go over it and have a look at where we went wrong and where they went right.
"It's impossible for us to know what they've done in their preparation so that's a bit hard. There's a few of us left scratching our heads a little bit going, ‘Geez, you know, how are we going to bridge the gap?' But, look, there's always tomorrow, you know, in four years time there'll be another Olympic Games and we'll come out and try and win again."
O'Shea said the experience of 27-year-old GB team pursuit captain Clancy and the 25-year-old Thomas, who returned to the track this year after focusing on road ambitions with Sky, was of benefit to the home side. Australia's Jack Bobridge was the only member of the visiting quartet to race at Beijing 2008 with he and O'Shea the veterans of the squad in London.
"There's no doubt that experience is a massive help to them, especially with Clancy," O'Shea said. "We rate him as the best team pursuit rider in the world. He proved that over the two days, he was exceptional."
Mark Cavendish has indicated a possible to return to the track and team pursuit at the Rio Olympics with the road race course not suiting the 23-time Tour de France stage winner's strengths. O'Shea has welcomed the move.
"I read about Cavendish and I said to the boys, ‘That's just more motivation for us to go to Rio and win.' It shows how big track cycling is for someone like Cavendish to say that. For someone who has won however many races on the road, he still regards a gold medal at the Olympics, on the track, a thing he hasn't achieved, as a massive goal," he said.
O'Shea was vomiting before the individual pursuit yesterday, which he finished third in to take the lead in the omnium with the scratch race and kilo remaining. He was heavily marked in the scratch race and disappointed to slip out of medal contention thereafter but finished on a high with a personal best in the kilo.
His Olympic campaign has marked a comeback to track cycling's top tier after a tough run to the London Olympics that included injury, illness and a brief retirement from the sport.
"I thought about it last night, less than two years ago I wasn't even riding my bike so just to make the team was an achievement," he said.
"To get a medal was another massive achievement for me. I would have liked to obviously medal in the omnium but being a part of the team pursuit meant a lot to me, actually, especially with the four other guys, they're all really good mates."
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