Report: Simon Powers
Published 25 July 2012
The Great Britain women’s team pursuit squad have spoken of times dropping in the event at the Games, further confirming the fact that performances will almost certainly be higher than previously seen.
Above: Laura Trott leads out the Great Britain women's team pursuit squad last week in Newport
The XXX Olympiad in London will see the inclusion, for the first time, of the women’s team pursuit into the track programme. Since the last Olympic Games, the event, and particularly the performances of the Great Britain women, have gone from strength to strength.
At the UCI Track World Championships 2008 in Manchester, when the event was first showcased for women, the time of 3:22.415 by the team of Wendy Houvenaghel, Joanna Rowsell and Rebecca Romero won the gold medal. Only four years later, the team of Joanna Rowsell, Laura Trott and Dani King broke the world record twice, once in qualifying and again in the final to take the gold in a time of 3:15.720, an astonishing performance leap in a gap of just 48 months.
Wendy Houvenaghel, who has ridden in the event since its overture four years ago commented: “I think what we can predict is that the world record will drop. It remains to be seen just how much and by what margin. As it is an Olympic Games, every country will be stepping up their efforts and will attempt to go even faster than we have done so far and really it’s just a benchmark that we set at the last competition. I fully anticipate that it will fall even further and that we will all be aiming to perform even better.”
Since Melbourne, the British quartet have attended a training camp in Majorca and then found themselves straight back into normal training in Manchester before arriving at Newport for the final holding camp before the Games.
Paul Manning, women’s endurance coach confirmed: “Training’s been going really well, the girls are just waiting patiently for it all to filter through in a few weeks’ time.”
With the highs of the world championships and those epic rides on the Hisense Arena’s boards now all but a distant memory, the time has come to put the finishing touches to an already finely tuned machine. Final tweaks which will be made in Newport prior to making the final journey down the M4 to the nation’s capital for the first round of the women’s team pursuit on Saturday 4 August.
Joanna Rowsell explained: “In the world championships in Melbourne we went significantly faster than we did at the world cup in London. Most of that was down to structuring the ride better. We learned a lot from the world cup about responding to a big crowd. We have taken a lot from that but have done a lot of training since then so we are just looking forward now really. It was great to beat the Australians on their home turf but we know we are going to have to go even faster so there’s no point in looking back. This is the big one and no one really cares about the worlds once the Olympics are done.
“We are still very much in training mode at the moment so we aren’t too interested in looking at times, we just focus on getting the efforts done.”
Despite London being Houvenaghel’s second Olympic experience, the event will see the inclusion of three young Olympic novices into the Games. Although this is their first Olympics, they are more than experienced at riding a world-beating 12 laps and moreover, how to focus on the task at hand when the pressure is on.
Dani King quashed any doubts over whether nerves will get the better of them: “It is overwhelming but I try not to let it get on top of me. I try and take every training session as it comes and try not to think about the Olympics and that it is such a massive deal. At the end of the day, it is just another bike race and we have done this day in day out for the last two years as a group. Then on the day it’s just another standing 3km.”
The key threat standing between King, Trott, Houvenagel and Rowsell will come from the Australian team. A team who will be keen to pay Great Britain back on home turf in exactly the same manner King, Trott and Rowsell did in Melbourne earlier this year. This is clearly a theory which the team hasn’t entertained: “We already beat them [Australia] on our patch too so that’s good. I think we have a bit of an advantage. We beat them in the world cup in London and they said we had the advantage but then we went and beat them again in front of their home crowd,” Laura Trott calmly asserted.
Now, with some great performances behind them as well as some solid training both on the road in Majorca this spring as well as on the boards in their training home ground at Manchester Velodrome, the time has come to focus on beginning their taper and getting their bodies in the ultimate condition for what will hopefully be another epic ride next week at the Games in London.
Paul Manning briefly summarised their final battle plan to secure the title of being the first ever women’s Olympic team pursuit champions on home soil : “The girls have been training together for a while now so what they need to do in the last few days aren’t really going to be a puzzle for them.”