GB Pressing Forward with the Team Pursuit

GB Pressing Forward with the Team Pursuit

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GB Raising Their Game in the Team Pursuit

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It has been said by an insider at Team GB, that for the riders expected to be on the start line in 2012, there are approximately seven qualifying races to go before the London Olympics roll around. In terms of gaining race experience, not a lot to work with especially for an event like the Omnium which is changing all the time. One event though where Team GB have already had success is the Team Pursuit (Men’s & Women’s).

They are the current Olympic Champions and record holders (men’s) and London 2012 will see the Women’s Team Pursuit included for the first time. Of all the events, The Team Pursuit is a blue ribbon endurance event and it’s not hard to see why. Watching the worlds best racing around the track at 60kph an hour, the rumble  of the boards reflecting the speed of the team at work while their skill matches the inner workings of a precision watch, it is one event where the British expect success.

GB, the World Cup winning team in 2009/2010 Track Cycling World Cup Season. Three of the riders from that team, Ed, Steven Burke and Andy Tennant will represent GB in Poland. Jason Queally, who was also at the 2010 Track Worlds, will be with the team as will Academy rider Luke Rowe.

The Men’s GB team know it is going to be tough to win Gold again in London because there is this unknown of knowing which teams will come to the fore to challenge them. The Aussies, current world Champions, will be a force as will the New Zealand team. America too perhaps along with a handful of teams from Europe such as Denmark who have shown that nations like them can get it right and challenge for the medals.

London 2012 is now only two years away and there is a lot of work to do for both the Men’s and Women’s teams. There is the matter of qualifying for the Olympics using the 12 events chosen by the UCI as well as coming up with the riders best placed to deliver the Gold medal in London 2012.

For example, the riders we see on the track at the Europeans may or may not reflect the rider line up in 2012. As many as ten riders are said to be interested in being included in each of the squads (Men & Women) and so competition for places will surely make the team go faster than ever in the coming two years.

With the Team Pursuit being only one of two events left for Endurance riders on the track, success for Great Britain in this event is important, vital even, and the plans for achieving that success are already well under way. Those plans have not been easy to put in place as managers and coaches have had to try and second guess what the UCI were up to in the reshaping of the Olympic programme and what the Olympic qualification process was going to be.

While Laura Trott takes time out to do some drills for the Women's Omnium, Claire Galloway leads the Women's Team Pursuit trio round the track before travelling to Poland.

For much of the year, the team had to put riders on call to be ready for a qualifying event without knowing  where and when it was going to be. When the team finally did get that information, they were able to make plans for the first of the qualifiers in Poland. It hasn’t been an easy task though with the road riders needing a break from their road seasons and the team having to find what riders they could to represent the country and also be competitive.

In the Men’s team, only one of the Gold medallists from Beijing is going to Poland, Ed Clancy backed up Olympic Bronze medallist Steven Burke, Academy rider Luke Rowe, World Silver medallist in 2010 Andy Tennant and Sydney Olympic Kilometre champion, Jason Queally.

In the Women’s team, Olympic Silver medallist in the Individual Pursuit event, Wendy Houvenaghel heads the line up with World Junior Women's Omnium champion Laura Trott, former European Champion Katie Colclough and a new comer to the team, Claire Galloway.

That Winning Feeling
Whilst the GB squads may not seem to be at full strength, there is also the other view that these riders will be doing their best to get that winning feeling going and putting pressure on those wanting to take their places in the team for 2012. Quite simply, they are all hungry for success in Poland and in training, the times they are posting, even after minimal training (days not weeks) on the track, are World Class.

The Europeans are just the first of many qualifying events this winter and the team are looking at pacing themselves and not burning the riders out. Once Poland is out of the way, there is the World Track Cycling Cup in Melbourne where the Men’s Team Pursuit are expecting to compete while the Women may compete in either Melbourne or Cali (Columbia). Beijing then follows before the big one at Manchester where the European countries are expected to hit it hard with their best line ups pre-Worlds.

Just which countries step up to the plate in the Team Pursuit is an unknown right now. With the axe having fallen on so many Endurance events at the Olympics, it is unknown what effect that will have on the Team Pursuit. It will either weaken it because nations decide to withdraw from the track endurance events altogether at the Olympics,  or it will make the Team Pursuit harder to win as nations throw everything behind  that event.

In 2012, ten teams in both the Men’s and Women’s competitions will battle it out for Gold and those ten will be chosen based on the World rankings after the twelve qualifying events. From Europe, a maximum of six nations can qualify and Great Britain will expect to be part of that. That is not over confidence but a realistic view based on the fact that for a decade, the Men’s GB team has been part of the top four in the World and they have the riders, great riders, queuing to be in that foursome.

At 40, Jason Queally is still learning and improving and will be travelling to Poland where he expects to take part in his first major competition as an Endurance rider.

The same applies for the Women’s team who have been World Champions and World record holders and have a Beijing Olympic Gold medallist in Paul Manning guiding them. Can we expect them both to succeed in the Europeans? Based on previous championships, for sure. Certainly the times they are doing in training are very very fast and they’re still a long way out from the World Championships.

A victory or two will still be tough though. Having been putting in some very fast times in training, the Men should be fine if, based on the times from the Track Worlds, there are no surprises from the other European nations. The Women meanwhile, will also have to go quickly if the likes of Holland, Germany and Ukraine etc repeat their times from the Worlds in Copenhagen. The Team Pursuit certainly appears on paper to be a very exciting competition in Poland.

To find out more, British Cycling spoke to some of the riders during training:
-- Men’s Team Pursuit: Talking to Ed Clancy, Alex Dowsett and Jason Queally --  Read the article
-- Women’s Team Pursuit:  We introduce you to Claire Galloway --  Read the article

Related Links
Feature: The Track to London 2012 Starts in Poland - Read the full article