“Let’s go faster,” suggested Katie Archibald, the newest addition to the women’s team pursuit line-up when questioned as to their ambition in Mexico this week at the second leg of the World Cup. And Archibald and her team-mates, Jo Rowsell, Dani King and Elinor Barker, have done exactly that.
The British quartet twice lowered their own world record in sweeping to another gold medal in Aguascalientes; they have now shaved over 10 seconds off the mark in the last two months and this latest low was achieved without the aid of multiple world and Olympic champion Laura Trott.
The evening before the race, the squad shared a cake to mark Rowsell’s birthday. At 25, she is the elder stateswoman of the quintet, with Archibald and Barker both still in their teens. Sir Dave Brailsford has already marked them down as Britain’s star act on the road to Rio 2016 and they are setting off down it at a rare pace.
Yesterday they won the final against Canada in 4min 16.552sec, three seconds quicker than Trott, Rowsell, Barker and King had ridden in winning the opening World Cup in Manchester last month and some 10 seconds swifter than Trott, Rowsell, Barker and Archibald had recorded in winning the European Championships in Apeldoorn earlier in November.
With Aguascalientes sitting over 1,800m above sea level, world records were expected at this World Cup – the German men’s and women’s sprint teams also set new marks – but the manner in which the British pursuit team are getting quicker, despite not having settled on their premier line-up and not being in peak condition, is remarkable.
Yesterday they were 4.8sec slower than the Italian men’s team; they have been set a target of breaking the four-minute, 10-second barrier by the Rio Games and come next year’s world championships in Cali, Colombia, another venue at altitude, they may well be going quicker than some of their male counterparts.
The women’s pursuit was upped from three riders riding three kilometres to four doing four in February. It was an event Britain dominated before the switch but at the moment the rest simply cannot compete with their depth. In the final Canada finished seven seconds adrift, unable to come anywhere near their promising semi-final time of 4:19.629 in the face of Britain’s relentless riding.
It was Britain’s only gold of the opening night. Germany underlined their dominance of the sprints, beating Britain into silver in both the men’s and women’s races. Kian Emadi, Philip Hindes and Jason Kenny broke the world record in qualifying but the Germans responded by going even faster in their first ride and then were too quick for Britain in the final.
Becky James and Jess Varnish also failed to keep up with the Germans as the formidable Kristina Vogel, becoming the dominant force in women’s sprinting, and Miriam Welte took their second gold of the World Cup series. In the men’s pursuit an experimental and youthful line-up of Owain Doull, Steve Burke and Sam Harrison took bronze.