Great Britain’s male team pursuit squad gave no quarter to their most tenacious rivals Australia today as they claimed their second straight Olympic gold in track cycling’s most coveted title and simultaneously demolished their own World Record for a second time in two days.
Spurred on by multiple World and Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins in the velodrome crowd - himself responsible for Britain’s cycling gold rush in Wednesday’s individual time trial and also part of the Beijing team pursuit squad four years ago - Great Britain clocked a time of 3 minutes 51.659 seconds, shaving almost a second off their own World Record time and nearly three seconds faster than silver medallists Australia. A few minutes earlier, New Zealand had seen off Russia for bronze.
The latest chapter of a decade-long rivalry between GB and the Aussies unfolded in near-faultless style for the British, forging ahead from the gun. Rather than the repeat of their nailbiting finale in Melbourne’s World Championships in April where the lead changed six times, the Australians were always on the backfoot, albeit drawing dangerously close at one point before fading for good.
“In our ride 90 minutes before” - where Britain had clinically dispatched Denmark to move into a final where either silver or gold was the only outcome - “we kind of knocked it out, because we wanted to be in top shape for the final”, 2008 and now 2012 gold team pursuit medallist Geraint Thomas revealed.
“Then against Australia it was amazing how fast we were going, to be honest I could have done with a bigger gear.
“It was the same feeling as at Beijing, man after man we were coming through.”
Thomas revealed that he had not been feeling in great shape last week after going down with food poisonin. “I had felt like that I was down to one leg last week. But thanks to these boys, with so much support from them, I came through all right.”
“Geraint went fantastically well, given what he’d gone through,” added Steven Burke, a bronze medallist in the Individual Pursuit in Beijing who switched to the team event for London.
“I’ve thought about this every day for the last four years since Beijing, and today I just wanted to do my turn and bring it home for the lads.”
Thomas had a well-deserved thought for Andy Tennant, Britain’s fifth Team Pursuiter, who raced as part of the squad en route to Melbourne’s gold medal victory where Britain finally cracked what had been Australian domination at World Championships level since Beijing, but on the reserve bench yesterday. “Andy could have stepped up, they decided to keep the same team but he’s a big part of all this," Thomas insisted.
One eye-catching detail of this run of British triumphs is that in all four of the timed events so far - the women and men’s team sprint, and yesterday in both the men’s team pursuit and the women’s team pursuit - the GB track squad have set World Records, at least once. A surefire sign that not only are they beating the opposition soundly, but Britain are also ahead by their own, even more exacting standards - and this [Saturday] evening, after the GB women's team pursuiters clocked the best time in yesterday's qualifier, a fourth 2012 Games track gold could well be within Britain's grasp.
“We’re inspired by both what the other GB riders did yesterday in the other events and we wanted to be part of that, it motivates us more,” Thomas - who will likely now return to focussing on the road, where he has led the Tour’s Best Young Rider competition in 2010 and 2011 - commented.
“It hows how good the squad was, there was a lot of talk after Bejing about how we’d have to live up to all these expectation after winning all those medals there, but we’re managing to do that,”
“Whenever anybody gets up on the track, they’re thinking about going for the win.”