Reigning team sprint champions France added to the woes of track cycling’s global pacesetters Britain on the first day of the championships here on Wednesday.
Bradley Wiggins’ second consecutive title in the individual pursuit managed to cast a brighter light on the British team after clouds descended because of a doping suspicion surrounding fellow Englishman Rob Hayles, who left the championships after failing a blood screening test.
But by the end of a first day and four gold medal ceremonies Britain were looking forward to another possible gold in Thursday’s team pursuit after falling once again to the combined might of France’s formidable three-man sprint team.
France, who for the final shook up a trio which had topped qualifying, took gold in a new world best time of 43.271sec, leaving Britain to pick up the silver medal for the third year in a row.
The Netherlands took the bronze after beating Germany in their medal match-up.
France have now won the team sprint event eight times in the past decade, compared to Britain’s two victories, in 2002 and 2005.
Britain’s lead-off man Jamie Staff, who had concentrated all his efforts this year in the three-lap power event, admitted France had simply been too strong.
“The French have always been the team to beat in this event and they’ve got a lot of strength in depth, although that’s something we’re trying to develop too,” he told AFP.
“But I think that they’ll be giving us problems right up to (the Olympic Games in) 2012.”
Arnaud Tournant’s surprise inclusion in the final for France, at the expense of Mickael Bourgain, paid dividends with the kilometre world record holder powering his way to victory in the final lap ahead of Scotland’s Chris Hoy.
Tournant, who had lost his team sprint anchor place to Bourgain in the heats despite being in every one of France’s eight previous victorious teams since 1997, knew he had to seize the day.
“When you’ve been a part of every winning (team sprint) team since 1997, it’s hard to watch the others racing. No one can point the finger at me and say I haven’t been professional,” said Tournant, who took his world title haul to 14.
Before a pedal was even turned, the news of Hayles failing a blood test, with a haematocrit reading over 50.3 and just over the International Cycling Union (UCI) threshold of 50, left Britain in the dumps.
Head coach Dave Brailsford said there is likely to be a perfectly good explanation, and he refused to point the finger at the 35-year-old former world pursuit medallist.
However, with Britain in the track spotlight after winning seven gold and 11 in total at last year’s edition, Brailsford said the news was unwelcome.
“It’s the opening day of the worlds, and it’s not what we want,” he said.
Wiggins, the 27-year-old defending champion, was relieved after Huizenga had given him a scare in their heat during qualifying.
“It’s a relief to get the job done,” said Wiggins, who must have been shocked to see Huizenga come creeping back to pip him and top qualifying in a time of 4:16.343.
The previous best time of Huizenga, who only started track racing a-year-and-a-half ago, was around the 4:24.0 mark.
But the 23-year-old explained: “When I heard I was going to be against Wiggins in my heat it gave me huge motivation.”
Guerra takes 500m gold for Cuba
In the women’s only gold medal event reigning World Cup 500 metre champion Lisandra Guerra claimed her first world title in the time trial event.
Guerra finished outside her personal best but in a winning time of 34.021sec to leave Simona Krupeckaite of Lithuania with silver and Sandie Clair of France claiming the bronze.
Defending world champion and Olympic champion Anna Meares is absent from the championships as she recovers from injury.
But Guerra says she hopes to continue her progression, and beat the Australian’s world record of 33.588.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Anna, and I had been looking forward to competing against her here,” said the 20-year-old Cuban, a product of the World Cycling Centre in Aigle, Switzerland.
“But I hope to continue progressing in the 500. I’m only 20 years old, and I believe anything is possible. Next year, I hope I can beat Anna’s world record.”yUC0”
Belarus’ Lisouski up to scratch
Aliaksandr Lisouski of Belarus won the men’s scratch crown here at the world track cycling championships on Wednesday.
Lisouski held off the chasing pack in the final centimetres of what proved to be a thrilling race to take the gold medal ahead of Wim Stroetinga of the Netherlands.
Roger Kluge of Germany came third to take the bronze.