Olympic pacesetters Britain have been given an idea of what may be required if they are to repeat their record track cycling gold success of Beijing at the London Olympics.
Britain, Australia, France and Germany were among the track cycling powers beginning the steady cycle towards the 2012 Games with some nifty performances at the world championships which ended on Sunday.
From the medals table, it seems some took the exercise more seriously than others.
Britain, who won seven of the 10 Olympic titles on offer in Beijing, finished third with only two golds – thanks to Victoria Pendleton and the women’s pursuit team – from 19 events. While they insist their fingers are nowhere near the panic button, their big rivals would beg to differ.
After helping France to team sprint gold ahead of Britain, the Olympic champions, Gregory Bauge grabbed the final gold medal Sunday when he overpowered wily Malaysian Azizulhasni Awang to win the men’s sprint tournament. Bauge succeeded Britain’s injured reigning Olympic champion Chris Hoy and can’t wait for the next Games.
“Now, I have no option but to look forward to the Olympics,” said Bauge, who along with Kevin Sireau helped make sure all three British riders – Jason Kenny, Ross Edgar and Matthew Crampton – failed to make the semis.
An emotional victoria pendleton after her win: an emotional victoria pendleton after her winAFP/Getty Images
An emotional Victoria Pendleton after winning the women’s sprint
Pendleton, the reigning women’s Olympic sprint champion, was one of few British highlights.
Calling Pendleton a “warrior”, Britain’s track chief Dave Brailsford hailed her contribution.
“I don’t think any other Olympic champion has repeated gold in their own speciality in the following World Championships apart from Vicky,” said Brailsford. “We definitely felt the weight of expectation here and we knew we were not going to reach it and that we’d better take that on the chin.
“But the whole point of a peak is that you come down the other side.”
Repeating their Olympic performances, and their dominant showing at the last two world championships, was always going to be difficult especially with Hoy – and two other Olympic champions in Bradley Wiggins and Rebecca Romero – not competing here.
Britain’s rivals took advantage.
While France won the men’s sprint and team sprint events, Germany won gold in the men’s keirin and kilometre. New Zealand’s Alison Shanks succeeded Romero as women’s world pursuit champion and Denmark succeeded Britain as men’s pursuit and Madison champions. A young Australian team helped the biggest track cycling flops of the 2008 Olympics top the table.
“I’m absolutely delighted with our performance,” their track director Shayne Bannan told AFP. “Especially as we’ve come here with a lot of younger riders who are competing at the worlds for the first time.”
Cameron Meyer and Jack Bobridge were arguably Australia’s top performers, although Anna Meares also grabbed gold in women’s team sprint with Kaarle McCulloch and Josephine Tomic won the inaugural women’s omnium.
Meyer won the men’s points race, and along with Bobridge helped the pursuit team to silver behind Olympic silver medallists Denmark. Meyer then teamed up with Leigh Howard to claim silver in the Madison as Denmark, again, loosened Britain’s two-year grip on the title. Howard then won gold in the men’s omnium.
Taylor phinney (usa) showed his versatility by winning the men’s pursuit and taking silver in the men’s kilo: taylor phinney (usa) showed his versatility by winning the men’s pursuit and taking silver in the men’s kiloAFP/Getty Images
American Taylor Phinney
Arguably Wiggins’ biggest rival in three years time, however, could be an American – teenage sensation Taylor Phinney, who relieved the absent Wiggins of his pursuit world title. The 18-year-old pursuit specialist beat Bobridge to the gold, and also won silver in the kilometre.
“The main goal now is London 2012, and I’m sure I’ll be back at the world championships next year and the year after that,” he said after his pursuit gold win. “I think racing against Bradley will be a pretty big challenge the first time. But it will be a case of both pushing each other to the next level.
“I think he’s glad to have someone on his speed radar, and I’m happy to be that person.”