GB claim team pursuit gold at the European Championships in important Olympics scrap

Men’s quartet move closer to Paris qualification with victory over Denmark

GB men's team pursuit squad with their european championship gold medals
(Image credit: Alex Whitehead/SWpix)

Great Britain’s men’s team pursuit squad claimed a resounding gold medal at the European Track Championships on Thursday evening, their first at the competition in nine years. 

The quartet of Dan Bigham, Ethan Hayter, Charlie Tanfield and Ethan Vernon rode to a new British record in the final against world champions Denmark, stopping the clock at 3:45.218, and winning by over a second. Ollie Wood, who rode instead of Tanfield in the qualifying heats and first round, also received a medal.

The squad’s European victory could now prove crucial in qualifying for the Olympics. They entered the competition 11th in the rankings, following a crash at last summer’s World Championships, but look set to secure one of the ten qualifying spots for Paris.

In Thursday's final in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, the advantage swapped between the Brits and the Danes over the first half of the race. 

Vernon then peeled off, leaving GB with three riders, before Bigham put in a mammoth, one-kilometre turn to the line, stretching out the winning margin to 1.154 seconds. 

Speaking afterwards, Israel-Premier Tech rider Vernon said the team had been “struggling” in training, but everything came together in competition. 

“It is one of the last races we will do against the guys here, so it’s nice to do a good time and take some confidence going into Paris,” he said. 

“A few of us are going off onto the road now with our teams, so we are not going to be back together for a few months. It was nice to have a high like that before we go off and do our own things for a bit, then come back for the last Nations Cup.”

The final Nations Cup before the Olympics will take place on 12-14 April in Milton, Canada, and is expected to act as a dress rehearsal for the Games. 

GB women's squad won silver in Apeldoorn. 

(Image credit: Alex Whitehead/SWpix)

GB’s women’s team pursuit squad were also in a gold medal final on Thursday, but had to settle for silver against the Italians. 

World champions Josie Knight, Meg Barker and Anna Morris were joined by Jess Roberts in the final, and clocked a 4:15.950 - over three seconds off Italy, and their own time in the first round heats. 

For Barker, the silver marked a first European medal. “I’m really happy,” she said. “When you lose the gold medal ride off, it takes a second to realise you have still won silver. I think we’ll look back and still be really happy with it.” 

The British women are currently the number-one ranked team in the world. Now heading into the Olympics, Neah Evans, who rode in the quartet in qualifying, said they “don’t need more motivation”. 

“We’re all pretty competitive people,” Evans said. “There are a few areas that we can work on, so that’s really encouraging that we know what we can do to improve for the future. It’s a super busy season, we’ve got a lot coming up with the main target in the summer.” 

Also at the European Championships on Thursday, Joe Truman finished fourth in the one-kilometre ‘kilo’ time trial, Ethan Hayter and Mark Stewart placed seventh in the men’s Madison, and Sophie Lewis came thirteenth in the women’s scratch. 

Friday’s action will see Bigham and Tanfield return to the boards for the individual pursuit. 

World champion Emma Finucane will face Mathilde Gros in the semi-finals of the women’s match sprint, while, in the absence of reigning champion Katie Archibald, Evans will race the women’s Omnium. 

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