Great Britain’s Jon Dibben, Steven Burke, Owain Doull and Sir Bradley Wiggins set London’s Lee Valley VeloPark alight on the opening day of the 2016 UCI Track Cycling World Championships on Wednesday, qualifying fastest in the men’s team pursuit.
In the first event of the day, the quartet posted a time of 3:55.664, setting up a first round ride against an impressive Italian outfit and chance to ride for gold later in the competition.
Steven Burke got the team up to speed and peeled off early before massive turns from Sir Bradley Wiggins saw the home squad put daylight between themselves and nearest rivals Australia.
Defending world champions New Zealand started quickly but fractured in the closing stages to finish third ahead of early pacesetters Italy.
Solid first day at track worlds, qualified quickest in the tp with the lads. Far from perfect ride, plenty to improve on @BritishCycling— Owain Doull (@owaindoull) March 2, 2016
“Bradley has proved he belongs in that team. He was incredible,” said endurance coach Heiko Salzwedel, before hinting that there was better yet to come.
“There’s definitely more in the tank than we have seen here today.
“I’m happy with the best time but not I’m not happy with the time.”
But later there was disappointment in the team sprint, with Britain’s male and female squads failing to qualify for the medal finals despite strong rides in both events.
Despite a world-beating 17.0 opening lap from Philip Hindes, Britain’s men were pushed into sixth place with a 43.507, as successive nations put together more complete three-lap performances.
New Zealand qualified fastest with a time 43.096, setting up a gold medal ride against the Netherlands, the kiwi squad going on to claim gold.
Germany took bronze in their final against France.
“They were there or thereabouts where I thought,” said Great Britain Cycling Team technical director Shane Sutton.
“Phil Hindes was just on another planet. The boys couldn’t cope with the start. 17.0 – he’s been our most consistent performer since London. Absolutely brilliant and I’m sure we can put that one right between now and Rio.”
Big step forward in the teamsprint! Im happy to ride a 17.03 which is the fastest ever standing lap at sea level! pic.twitter.com/lrpwPQVeel— philip hindes (@Philip_hindes) March 2, 2016
It was double disappointment for Jess Varnish and Katy Marchant who, despite posting an impressive 32.903 ride, finished fifth, missing out on the medals and more crucially, Rio qualification.
Varnish and Marchant needed to finish two clear places ahead of France to claim an Olympic ride but Sandie Clair and Virginie Cueff put in a strong ride to finish seventh and deny Great Britain their chance.
Gold went to Russia’s Anastasiia Voinova and Daria Shmeleva in a dramatic final against China’s Tianshi Jhong and Jinjie Gong. A fall for Russia resulted in a restart, China getting the better of their rivals at the second attempt. But minutes later, commissaires judged China’s change illegal and the rainbow jersey was Russia’s.
Germany’s Miriam Welte and Kristina Vogel clinched bronze.
Despite the disappointment, Sutton was upbeat about Varnish and Marchant’s performance.
“PB by a mile,” said Sutton. “I don’t think they can ask for any more. It’s sad that they’ve not qualified for the Games but that’s life. It’s a long journey to qualification and I think if they look at themselves collectively, as a group, they just haven’t been good enough.
“But today they were absolutely brilliant – I can’t praise them enough.”
Chris Latham finished ninth in an explosive scratch race, the world championships debutant helping to animate the race in an early lap gain with De Pauw of Belgium, Gladysh of Ukraine and Liss of Germany.
But subsequent lap gains nullified the Briton’s effort, and despite continued efforts in the closing stages, the world title went to Sebastian Mora of Spain, ahead of Prado of Mexico and Imhof of Switzerland.
Action continues on Thursday with the climax of the men’s team pursuit, the women’s team pursuit, women’s keirin, men’s kilometre time trial and women’s scratch race, with British interest in every event.