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Great Britain took men’s team pursuit silver and women’s team sprint bronze on the opening day of the track cycling world championships in Minsk, Belarus.
London Olympic champions Steven Burke and Ed Clancy, along with Andy Tennant and Sam Harrison, were unable to defend their title, posting 4:00.967 to their Australia’s 3:56.751 as Minsk Arena welcomed track cycling’s first major meeting since the Games.
They had qualified second in the day’s earlier session in 3:59.784, just behind Australia in the four-man event.
The evening also witnessed first world championship medals for Becky James and world championship debutant Victoria Williamson in the women’s team sprint contest, overcoming Australia in their medal ride off in 33.893, a winning margin of just five-thousandths of a second.
An impressive display from British kilo champion Kian Emadi, in his first senior world championships, saw the 20-year-old narrowly miss out on a medal, placing fourth in the kilo.
"It's been a good day. It was really unexpected,” James said of the medal. “It was hard for Vicky stepping in, Jess [Varnish] with her injury. She really stepped up today.
"We were both a bit gob-smacked when we looked up and we qualified faster than the Aussies. We knew we were guaranteed to be through. It was a shock to both of us. My form's come through nicely. I was really happy with my times and it just worked out today.
"I'm just absolutely buzzing. I'm so shocked. Me and Vicky, we did not expect to be having a medal ride-off whatsoever. It was always going to be hard against the Aussies in the final. I can't believe it, my first world medal. I'm so happy.
"Last year was the hardest year for me. Just to come away with a medal on the first day, I'm just looking forward to racing the rest of the week now. Everything is a bonus from now on."
Williamson added: "I'm gob-smacked. We didn't come into the event with any position expectations. We just said we'd give it everything. To come out with a bronze medal is just amazing.”
Three of the four of Great Britain’s pursuiters – Tennant, Burke and Clancy – had entered the Belarus capital as world champions, part of the winning quartet from Melbourne last year, whilst Sam Harrison was making his first appearance at the competition since 2011, when he won bronze in the event.
Last out in the afternoon’s qualifying, the four led until the three-kilometre mark before slowing to end behind Australia and set up a repeat of last year’s gold medal final.
But Britain were unable to turnaround the earlier result, finding themselves over a second down at the two-kilometre mark, the arrears over four seconds by the end of the race.
Andy Tennant said: “It’s always disappointing to lose, you come here trying to win but all we can do is our best and I think between the four of us we gave it all and left it on the track.
“We didn’t have it as a unit and we’ve got things to work on. There’s bright prospects coming up and snapping at our heels so that’s going to push everyone forward.
Coach Chris Newton added: “It’s a team event and we go into like that, at some point within the ride the responsibility is passed from team member to team member, it’s all about getting the three men to the line first and we didn’t do that.”
The evening session also saw debuts for British Cycling Academy riders Victoria Williamson and Kian Emadi. In the absence of the retired Victoria Pendleton and injured Jess Varnish, Williamson took on the man one role in the team sprint, partnering with Becky James, the duo eventually qualifying third in 33.762 behind Germany’s Olympic champions Kristina Vogel and Miriam Welte, and China.
The result set up a bronze medal ride against Australia, without Olympic champion Anna Meares, with James turning around a deficit of four-tenths of a second after the first lap to hand Great Britain the win. Germany took the gold triumphing over China.
Earlier Kian Emadi, who only made his track world cup debut in Colombia where he managed silver in the kilo, set a time of 1:01.756 over the four laps to propel him to the top of the leader board.
Germany’s Joachim Eilers and eventual victor Francois Pervis of France pushed the Briton down to third before New Zealand’s Simon Van Velthooven denied the rider from Stoke-on-Trent a podium place, though he will have further chances in both the individual and team sprint, placing Sir Chris Hoy at man three in the latter.
“It’s always the way of the competition, you get up and if you post the fastest time you’ve just to wait and see the big guns go for it,” Emadi said.
“I’m pleased with my performance but at the end of the day [Francois] Pervis, [Simon] Van Velthooven, Joachim [Eilers], they’re top class guys so fair to them.
"You can't have a position (in mind). I'm pleased with fourth. If four guys broke the world record, I got fifth, I couldn't then go I wanted to get second or third.
“In an ideal world maybe it wouldn’t be in this order [with team sprint tomorrow] but it’s the world championships and it’s an honour to ride in this event and given a good recovery strategy you can do both.
“My PB was set in Colombia which is at altitude so it’s hard to compare really like for like but I think today was a solid performance. I think today was a solid performance in itself.”
|Men's team pursuit - qualifying|
|Women's individual pursuit - qualifying|
|Women's team sprint - qualifying|
|Men's kilometre TT - final|
|Women's individual pursuit - finals|
|Women's team sprint - finals|
|Men's team pursuit - finals|