Great Britain’s men’s team pursuit quartet marked themselves out as gold medal favourites by posting the fastest qualifying time on an enthralling first day of action at the Track Cycling World Championships in London.
Roared on by a raucous home crowd at the Lee Valley VeloPark, the foursome of Steven Burke, Jon Dibben, Owain Doull and Sir Bradley Wiggins clocked an impressive time of 3:55.664 minutes.
That means they will take on fourth-fastest qualifiers Italy (3:57.800) in Thursday’s semi-finals while Australia and defending champions New Zealand will meet in the second semi-final.
And despite their position atop the leaderboard, British Cycling coach Heiko Salzwedel is adamant there is still more to come from the quartet.
“It was the fastest time but it was a bit below our expectation because we expected more opposition from Switzerland, from Denmark and from Australia,” said Salzwedel. “So we backed off from our plan slightly when that didn’t happen.
“We had a couple of minor technical problems – Steven Burke came too light so we lost him early which was disappointing.
“Nonetheless Bradley [Wiggins] has proved he is an incredible athlete, he belongs in that team – that was incredible.
“I think Bradley, Owain and Jon did an incredible job and there is definitely more in the tank than we have seen here today. I’m definitely expecting more tomorrow.”
However, there was disappointment for the men’s and women’s team sprint squads as they both missed out on a medal ride.
Jess Varnish and Katy Marchant finished fifth in women’s qualifying after posting a time of 32.903 seconds, which means they also failed to seal a spot at this summer’s Olympic Games.
And Varnish and Marchant’s understandable frustration at missing out on Rio 2016 was clear after the race.
The men’s team sprint trio of Philip Hindes, Jason Kenny and Callum Skinner had already sealed a spot in Rio but could only finish sixth in qualifying on Thursday.
There were positives to be taken ahead of the Olympics though as start-man Hindes produced an incredible first lap of 17.030 seconds to set a personal best and record for a standing lap at sea level.
“I’m happy because it was a PB for me, the fastest-ever standing lap at sea level and we came together as a team,” said Hindes.
“I think it was a good sign for the Olympics that we’ve got a few tactics in the bag. It’s looking good for Rio.”
Meanwhile, in the evening session, Chris Latham produced a valiant ride on his World Championships debut in the men’s 15km scratch race.
The 22-year-old rode aggressively and took a lap early on but eventually had to settle for ninth spot as he missed out on a medal.