Britain will insist that only the London Olympics really matter, but track cycling’s world pacesetters were left trailing for the second day in a row by a rampant Australia Thursday.
Australia were shamed into making big changes to the way they run the sport in the wake of their single-medal achievement at the 2008 Beijing Olympics where the Brits won seven of the 10 titles.
And their determination seems to be paying off two years before the next big Olympic rendezvous in 2012.
A day after Anna Meares reclaimed her world 500m time trial crown and Cameron Meyer gave a points race masterclass to win his second successive crown, Thursday’s two-gold haul was a team effort.
Meares paired up with Kaarle McCulloch to secure gold in the two-lap team sprint in a new world record time of 32.923sec. The pair had beat their own world record, set last year in Poland, of 33.149 during qualifying which they dominated in a time of 33.037.
Going below the 33-sec barrier had McCulloch beaming, especially as the event will be part of the Olympic programme for the 2012 Games.
Anna Meares and Kaarle McCulloch
Jess Varnish and Victoria Pendleton
McCulloch said: “We’re so happy so have defended our title, and really excited obviously going into the London Games being the best team in the world.”
Meares warned, however: “You look at the Chinese and the improvements they’ve made this year, and I’m sure the great British team of Victoria Pendleton and Jessica Varnish will be working really hard over the next couple of years, being in their home town.
“Then throw in the Dutch team, it’s going to be really close in London.”
Australia’s women hit the top of the podium again when they dethroned Britain in the final of the team pursuit, with New Zealand setting a new world mark on their way to beating the United States for the bronze.
Ashlee Ankudinoff, Sarah Kent and Josephine Tomic proved unbeatable as they surged to an impressive winning time of 3:21.748, just missing out on the new world mark set by their Oceanic rivals minutes earlier.
“I’m really stoked,” said Tomic, who is also the reigning world omnium champion.
“We came here after winning (the World Cup) in Beijing and that gave us a bit of confidence that we can match it with the best in the world.”
Outgoing champions Wendy Houvenaghel, Joanna Rowsell and Lizzie Armitstead made it to the final but the Britons were left trailing from the outset and never launched a convincing fightback before finishing in a time of 3:22.287.
Although missing out on gold, the Kiwi trio were smiling after their new world mark came in the wake of Jesse Sergent’s silver in the men’s individual pursuit.
Alison Shanks, who missed out on the chance to defend her individual pursuit title from 2009 on Wednesday’s opening day before being beat to the bronze, was especially happy.
“We would have loved to have got the chance to go out and race for gold, but it’s just wonderful to go out and get that world record time,” she said. “We went out really smoothly and managed to execute our ride to perfection.”
Chris Hoy salvaged some pride for the British team
Britain’s only gold so far has come thanks to Sir Chris Hoy, a four-time Olympic champion who won three of Britain’s seven golds in Beijing.
Despite missing last year’s championships due to injury, he claimed his third keirin crown, and 10th world title, in his trademark dominating style.
“I’m over the moon, it was such a hard-fought victory,” said Hoy. “We hadn’t won a gold medal yet here and obviously the team starts to feel a little bit of pressure from the media, so it’s nice to take that pressure off a bit.”
American Taylor Phinney won the men’s 4000m individual pursuit again
For full results, reports and photos of the Track World Championships, visit Cyclingnews.com.