Commonwealth Games 2014: Only Scots pair fly British flag as Aussies rule the velodrome
Inquest starts as once all-conquering home riders are left behind by Australia – except Fachie and Maclean that is
Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome
Sunday 27 July 2014
Sir Chris Hoy slipped in the back door of his place last night just as the first rain of the Commonwealth Games began to fall. Once inside, he sat and watched Australia rain on the British parade. This was, with one raucously received exception, Australia's night, and with one day of racing left in the velodrome it is Australia who will almost certainly top the medal table.
First the exception, and it was one that almost blew the roof off Hoy's velodrome as Scotland's Neil Fachie and Craig Maclean, an old team-mate of the host, recovered from losing the first race of the para-sport sprint tandem against the favoured Australian pairing to win the next two, snatching the second with a lung-busting turn around the final bend, and take a second gold of the Games.
Their victory was celebrated by a karaoke session of Scotland's other anthem. Even Hoy looked close to tears as the Proclaimers "500 miles" echoed around the velodrome and Fachie, a partially sighted rider, hugged his family. Otherwise the happiest pit in the velodrome was the one adorned with the Australian flag.
At the races: Scotland’s Neil Fachie and pilot Craig Maclean (in blue) come from behind to beat Australia It was another good session of track racing for one of the Sutton brothers, only it was the wrong one who went home happy in the eyes of those who had come to cheer on any and every rider from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Shane Sutton, Britain's head coach, is not a man to hold back when he feels criticism is due and he may have some harsh words to deliver to a number of his riders once everyone is back together in British colours. An honesty among the coaching staff, making it plain in public when they are not happy, has been a feature of the British set-up – earlier in the week Chris Newton, the endurance coach, said he was disappointed with rides by Laura Trott and Dani King, two of his record-breaking squad of pursuit riders.
Gary Sutton, Shane's big brother with whom he won Commonwealth gold back in 1978, is part of the Australian coaching set-up and saw his charge Annette Edmondson lead home a green-and-gold one-two in the 10km scratch race. Moments later, the imperious Anna Meares swept past Jess Varnish and into today's sprint final – another English scalp for the Australians. Varnish will ride for bronze.
Elinor Barker sneaked a gutsy bronze for Wales in the scratch but the more illustrious members of the British women's endurance squad trailed in the Australian wake. King was fourth, Scotland's Katie Archibald, a relative novice at this level, fifth, while Trott came in a distant 11th and Jo Rowsell was 19th.
Elinor Barker wins bronze "I'm gutted, obviously, because I am so competitive I want to win," said King. "It was Jo's first international bunch race so you can't ask much of her and look what she did yesterday [winning gold] and Laura has been under the weather."
Trott is sick after every race – the coaching staff habitually hand her a bag when she comes off the track. Habitually she collects a medal too, except she is running out of events here. Today she has her last on the track, the 25km points race. She is suffering with a kidney infection which kept her in bed for much of Friday, and faces a first major championship without a medal. After the track finishes she is due to ride the road race in support of Lizzie Armitstead. The programme here is not suited to her strengths, regardless of her fitness, but nevertheless it is a mark of the success she has already achieved at the age of 22 that going home with nothing for her well-stocked trophy cabinet would be a surprise and disappointment.
Laura Trott (in red) in the scratch race "I'm here now so I may as well ride," said Trott. "I definitely don't think I should have ridden [on Friday] – I really wasn't well at all. But today I felt it was good for me to get stuck in and see how my legs actually were. I got my tactics slightly wrong. The Australians are working really well together and we need to do that more."
This is not an Olympic programme being raced here, and Australia have the advantage in not being split up as the British are, yet there is plenty for Sutton Snr to ponder with both his men's and women's squad – and time to put things right ahead of Rio, as Britain invariably do. He will be encouraged by Barker's performance. It underlines the depth of the British endurance squad as the 19-year-old added a first individual medal to the two world team-pursuit titles she claimed with Trott and Co.
Anna Meares beats Jess Varnish It was in this venue two years ago that Barker first rode with Trott and King in the World Cup. She impressed her team-mates then and yesterday she left them behind. "It was so close I didn't realise I had won a medal," said Barker. "I was in an awful position with two laps to go and I thought, 'I'm not going to make it to the front'. But I had the speed and I saw the line and knocked people out of the way and made it.
"That was one of the gutsiest rides I've ever done."
Peter Kennaugh won the Isle of Man's first medal of the Games, taking silver in the men's points race.
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