Jess Varnish is optimistic that home advantage can spur Team GB’s track cyclists to success at the London Velodrome.
Alongside Victoria Pendleton, British Cycling member Varnish makes up the women’s team sprint duo for Great Britain as the event, like Varnish, makes its Olympic debut in London.
The 21-year-old produced a superb standing lap which helped set a new world record of 32.754 seconds with Pendleton at the UCI London Track World Cup, which acted as the Olympic test event in February. The record has since been usurped by Germany at the UCI Track World Championships in April, an event which was marred by illness for Varnish.
Now she is hopeful that the 6,000 strong crowd in the ‘Pringle’ can again lift Great Britain’s cyclists to new heights.
“To look up in the crowd and to see your family and friends is amazing,” Varnish said. “I think there definitely is home advantage. For us in London it was a home world cup, it was a huge event as it was a test event. It wasn’t just like a normal world cup so there we managed it really well so hopefully the Olympics will be the same.
“It’s not very nice for our competitors to go back to a track where they have been beaten and we did a world record there. The team sprint is always stepping up especially the women’s event.
“It’s going to be a really tough event, everyone has shown they can break the world record and in Melbourne I was sick when we were out there so it’s not great preparation but I wasn’t going too badly - but you can’t look back and things just didn’t come together that time. But since then we’ve got in some really good work.
“The team is in a great place, we couldn’t be anywhere better.”
An Olympic year has seen the world record in the discipline broken on four occasions. Firstly the Australian pairing of Anna Meares and Kaarle McColloch set a time of 32.828 seconds at the Olympic test event, only to see Varnish and Pendleton take further time off in the final. Then at the track world championships Germany’s Kristina Vogel and Miriam Welte broke the record twice on route to gold. Unsurprisingly, Varnish expects the trend to continue in London.
“Absolutely, if you look at past competitions, the world cup and then the worlds, there has been a world record broken so I think it’s going to go that way,” Varnish replied when asked if the world record would fall.
“I think everyone’s going to be an equal threat to one another, you can’t write anyone out, there are so many good teams and maybe you wouldn’t have expected the Germans to be world record holders in Melbourne - so we’ve got Aussies, French, Germans, Chinese, there are so many teams.”
Varnish, who along with the rest of Team GB’s track cyclists, is training at the Newport Velodrome ahead of the Games, spoke about some of the demanding training she undergoes as she strives to make further improvements to her standing lap.
“The gym is so hard, obviously with the lap it’s really explosive and you do need a lot of strength for that. To go into the gym everyday and think ‘I’ve got to put more weight on here than I’ve ever lifted before’ because that’s what you need to do to keep pushing yourself on.
“The gym is a really good indicator - you can see numbers so if you do 120kg one month and the next month 125kg it’s just a simple number.
“The event is a lot about power and strength so you need to keep it in there before you taper off otherwise you won’t be able to get off the start line with as much power as you did before.”
The women’s team sprint takes place on the opening day of the Olympic track cycling competition on Thursday 2 August.