Pursuit team collect silver in close contest

A British quartet added a silver encore to their Olympic bronze when they gave the Olympic and defending champions Germany a close fight in the 4,000 metres team pursuit final here in the Manchester velodrome last night.

A British quartet added a silver encore to their Olympic bronze when they gave the Olympic and defending champions Germany a close fight in the 4,000 metres team pursuit final here in the Manchester velodrome last night.

Germany took the world golds by less than two seconds in a match that evoked memories of an even more dramatic world title meeting 27 years ago.

Five weeks after becoming the first to break the four-minute barrier for the distance with three minutes and 59.671 seconds in Sydney, their foursome clocked 4:01.322.

They were pushed all the way by Britain's Jon Clay, Paul Manning, Chris Newton, and Bradley Wiggins, the same squad who beat France for the bronze medals in Sydney and overcame them in the semifinals yesterday.

The Germans were without Robert Bartko through illness. He was a key man in the Games triumph, but his replacement Sebastian Siedler was equal to the occasion.

Britain's squad range from the 20-year-old Wiggins to Clay who, at 37, is about to retire from international racing. "It is another step up for us," said Wiggins who two years ago was a world junior track champion. "It would have been good to have gold but to get silver behind the Germans is no disgrace."

The medals were presented last night by the championship's technical director Mick Bennett, reviving memories for him of the day in San Sebastian when Britain went home with silvers after a world final with Germany. The Germans won the golds but two of their riders received their medals in hospital after a British sporting gesture.

The Germans were ahead going into the final lap when a track official collided with the leading rider, and the quartet crashed. The German manager Gustav Kilian, who died last week, put in a protest which the British manager, Norman Shiel, did not dispute. Although Britain had completed the 4,000 metres they decided to forego the golds. "Technically, we were world champions," said Bennett, before presenting his 1972 rivals last night with a video of that fateful final.

In 38 years of world pursuit championships, last night was only the second medal success for Britain. Their Olympic record in this discipline is a run of nine bronze triumphs between 1928 and this year. Only once have they taken gold, and that was 92 years ago when the Games were held at London's Shepherds Bush.

Today, Chris Boardman will be the man of the hour. Seventeen years of sacrifice, pain and glory will click into history at a quarter to five this afternoon as he says a gruelling goodbye to cycle racing. He recalled "my best ever performance and the form of my life" when, four years ago on the wooden boards of Manchester, he set the world hour record at 56.375 kilometres (34.952 miles).

That day Boardman rode a hi-tech machine which has since been outlawed as the Union Cycliste Internationale tightens up on design regulations. It has put his record in a class of its own by calling it "the best hour performance", and has ruled that future attempts should be on conventional machines.

"It's a nice way to say goodbye, and I wanted to do it in Manchester," said the father of four whose other achievements include Olympic gold and bronze, earning the leader's yellow jersey in the Tour de France, and winning world titles on road and track.

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