By Laura Weislo, Cyclingnews.com, in London
Friday, August 3, 2012 9.07pm
Victoria Pendleton speeds to victory in women's keirin
Great Britain's Ed Clancy, Geraint Thomas, Steven Burke and Peter Kennaugh in the men's team pursuit, which they won in a new world record of 3:51.659 PA Wire/Press Association Images
This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Men's team pursuit
Great Britain set its second world record in the final heat of the men's team pursuit against Australia to win the team's second consecutive Olympic gold medal. With 2008 team member Bradley Wiggins watching, they scorched the track in 3:51.659 to soundly defeat Australia in front of an exuberant home crowd in London.
"It's amazing how fast we were going around," said Geraint Thomas, who shared the gold with Ed Clancy, Steven Burke and Pete Kennaugh. "I could have done with a bigger gear to be honest, I felt like my legs were going to come off. But it was the same feeling as Beijing - we just went out, got on the pace and that was it. Man after man, we just kept it going. Burke and Ed were just phenomenal. Me and Pete were just trying to hold the pace they dropped us off at."
Thomas had to overcome food poisoning and a missed week of training last week, but made a last minute comeback to earn his second Olympic gold. "It wasn't until we came here that I started to feel better again. I did a couple of efforts and felt like I had one leg. But at the last minute I started to feel good. Thanks to these guys for keeping the morale high and having faith in me. It showed the unity of the team.
"To come back and to have these boys going so well, it shows what kind of team we are. There's so much talk about the GB camp, and to finally get here and do it is a great feeling. It's strange - it's all over now. We've been thinking about it for so long and we're in the best shape possible and to win, it's just unbelievable really."
They gave credit to Andrew Tennant, who was the fifth man but never got a chance to ride. "He could have stepped up, but circumstances and whatever, we decided to keep the same team. It's a squad, it's not just the four on the track, it's the morale in the team and he was a big part of that," Thomas said.
The Australians conceded that although they had the goal of taking the gold medal, they were no match for the British on the day. "For the past four years we've had one goal and that was to come here and stand on the top of the podium," said Jack Bobridge, who lined up with Glenn O'Shea, Rohan Dennis and Michael Hepburn in both final rounds.
"We did everything right today and yesterday, we rode perfect as a team and we left everything out there. But at the end of the day, we're stoked to be able to walk away with a silver medal, but also disappointed that we didn't win. You can't be too disappointed when the team who beats you does a world record. Great Britain did everything perfect. They were the better team on the day."
The team from New Zealand earned the bronze medal by beating Russia in the round's third fastest time - 3:55.952. It was a repeat performance from the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing for the Kiwis, who were satisfied with their ride.
"It's pretty awesome for all three of us: me, Jesse [Sergent] and Marc [Ryan] because we were the boys that were in Beijing as well," said Sam Bewley. "When you come into this competition it is going to be tough to make the gold medal final. I think we can be proud of ourselves.
"You always know coming into the competition that winning an Olympic medal is something completely different, a special feeling. Everybody has got family and friends here and the whole nation is watching back in New Zealand so winning an Olympic medal for yourself in front of all these people is awesome."
After riding in the qualifying heat, Wes Gough sat on the sidelines for the final two rounds as Aaron Gate was put in his stead. "The boys rode really well tonight, I'm really happy to see they put together this ride," said Gough. "It's pretty nerve racking (watching on the side). It was also nerve racking on the boards I guess. I was trying to put in all the energy I could from the inside."
"We knew we had the option of having five riders, and they were all on good form," said Bewley. "It was a matter of a bit of fine tuning and we decided to swap out and bring in Aaron. It worked out well for us."
Men's team pursuit - the first round
The event started in the previous night to decide which eight of the ten teams would continue to the first round. There were a few line-up changes for the round to decide which teams would compete for the medals. Spain went up against Colombia in the first heat, putting in veteran Eloy Teruel Rovira for Pablo Aitor Bernal Rosique. The strategy seemed to work, with the Spaniards dropping nearly three seconds off their qualifying time, while Colombia had some issues and went two seconds slower.
Russia faced off next against the Netherlands, with both teams sticking to the tried and true foursomes. The Dutch still struggled, going a touch slower than the first night, while Russia stormed to a 3:57.237 - two seconds quicker, and a prime prospect for the medal rounds.
They had to wait through two more powerhouse heats, however, to know where they stood. The Australians went up against New Zealand in the next round, with Wesley Gough stepping back in order to let Aaron Gate have a go for the Kiwis.
Australia slowly pulled out a lead over the four kilometer race, coming in with a 3:54.317, dropping 1.3 seconds off their qualifying time. The Kiwis also dropped more than a second, going 3:56.442. With Denmark and Great Britain to go it was Australia, New Zealand and Russia in the top three.
The Danes have it their best, but were no match for the British in the final half, where Ed Clancy, Geraint Thomas, Steven Burke and Peter Kennaugh came close to beating their world record but seemed to ease in the last half lap with confidence that they had made the gold medal round. 3:52.743 was the time of the British, while the Danes failed to make the medal rounds, fading to 3:57.396 to lose out by a tenth of a second to Russia.
"We went out pretty hard, but we were on a 14.2 schedule so we just knocked that out and qualified quite comfortably. For the final it was a 14.1 schedule," said Thomas of the British ride.
"If we just rode 1s that would be as fast as we could go, and we knew the Aussies would struggle to do that. That's all we thought about. We just went out on that one schedule."
Men's team pursuit - Onto the finals
In the bronze medal final, the Russian team fought valiantly against the New Zealanders. Behind after one kilometer, the Kovalev brothers Evgeny and Ivan, Alexey Markov and Alexander Serov rallied in the second kilometer to take the lead. But they then fell short in the final half. The Kiwis netted a 3:55.952, nearly three seconds quicker than the Russians.
"We went out with the same schedule we did at the world championships," Bewley explained. "All week long we've seen [the Russians] come apart in the last kilometer and a half, so we knew we would come back in the end."
The marquee event of the night was the British gold medal final against Australia, and both teams put on a stunning show. The Aussies lost 0.4 seconds right at the start, but rallied back to close that to two tenths two laps later, and 0.3s at the end of the first kilometer.
The British team - in the same lineup as round 1 - held a steady lead into the second kilometer with the Australians holding them within arm's reach at 0.6 seconds. But in the second half, where the British have been separating themselves from all the rest, the lead blew out to a visible margin.
By the line, the British had smashed the world record again, going in with 3:51,659, the first riders ever to crack the 3:52 barrier, and a time nearly a second quicker than their qualifying round record.
Australia earned their silver with 3:54.581, giving Bobridge, O'Shea, Dennis and Hepburn the chance to stand on the second step of the Olympic dais.
Victoria Pendleton became the first woman to win Olympic gold in the keirin as the event debuted in London tonight. The defending Olympic champion in the individual sprint unleashed a perfectly timed burst of power, capitalizing on an earlier surge by rival Anna Meares (Australia) to jump clear of her five competitors heading into the last half lap.
China's Guo Shuang began to come up on Pendleton in the home stretch, but ran out of room to overtake and came home with the silver. A surprise name in third was Lee Wai Sze of Hong Kong, who had to advance through to the second round through the repechage heats. Even with extra heats in her legs, she surged to the line over Clara Sanchez, Meares and Canadian Monique Sullivan.
Pendleton's gold was sweet relief after she and Jessica Varnish were relegated in the team sprint rounds and therefore out of the medal finals, and a re-confirmation on her place as fastest woman in the world after several years of questions since Beijing.
"This is by far the most important victory of my life," Pendleton said. "I think a lot of people wrote me off after the 2011 worlds. I had a really rubbish year, injuries, personal-life issues that nearly made me give up. A lot of people thought that I had passed my best and I just wanted to prove them wrong. This does feel pretty good."
For Guo, who was also relegated in the team sprint with teammate Gong Jinjie, had to settle for a second silver of the Games. "Yesterday is past, and I don't want to dwell on it. The gold doesn't really matter," Guo said. "The competition was really tactical, and I am glad for the silver medal.
"I performed better than last time in Beijing. At the beginning of each lap I was always in the front, behind the derny. That's different from my usual behaviour. This is according to the plan I made with the coach."
The women's keirin started with three qualifying heats. In the first, it was a clean battle between Ekaterina Gnidenko (Russia) and gold medalist in the team sprint, Kristina Vogel (Germany). Vogel played it safe, taking the front from two laps to go and never letting up, while the Russian easily held off her foes.
In the next heat, Pendleton and Meares would go head to head, with the Briton taking the moto. An early jump from Dutch rider Willy Kanis stirred the pot, shuffling the two giants to the back, but Meares surged coming into the final lap, taking the long way around the outside with Pendleton on her wheel. The pair rode clear to easily advance. In the third heat, Guo Shuang (China) easily topped Lithuanian Simona Krupeckaite to advance.
In the repechage heats, Lee Wai Sze (Honk Kong) attacked to win while Kanis was able to hold off the rest to move onto the second round along with Sullivan. In heat two, Clara Sanchez (France) showed her class with a commanding win over Natasha Hansen (New Zealand) with both moving on with Venezuela's Daniela Larreal.
In round two, Meares used her power to attack the long way around with a lap to go, surging ahead with Sullivan the only rider able to hold her wheel. Lee slotted in for third to advance to the gold medal final, denying Kanis, Krupeckaite and Vogel.
The second heat was Pendleton all the way. Guo took the lead behind the motor, while the Briton kept a close eye on the proceedings behind. Coming over the top in the final lap, Pendleton won handily over Sanchez, with Guo in third to move on for the medal final.