GB women track the gold standard

The riders may change, but the result usually doesn’t. Great Britain have all-but owned the women’s team pursuit since the event started in 2008, and their glittering record continued with another glorious gold in Minsk on Thursday.

It was Britain’s fifth world title at the discipline in six world championships – each win coming with a different line-up.

This time, 18-year-old A-level student Elinor Barker brought her schoolbooks to Belarus to team up with Olympic champions Laura Trott and Dani King. Her performance meant Jo Rowsell, part of the triumphant trio at London 2012, was barely missed.

But, right at the start of the route to the 2016 Olympics, that sort of evolution was never going to be as easily implemented for Britain in every team event on the track.

The men’s team pursuit squad still got a silver medal on Wednesday

after changing two men from their London line-up,

but it came after they were outclassed by Australia in the final.

And, while a completely new partnership of Becky James and Vicky Williamson struck bronze in the women’s team sprint, their male counterparts did not even smell a medal, let alone touch one, as a slow final lap from new-boy Kian Emadi meant they finished a distant sixth in qualifying.

So what has gone wrong, and what has gone right at the Minsk Arena, and how much does it matter with three years to go until the next Olympics?

Olympic champion
Chris Boardman

and double Olympic medallist
Rob Hayles,

who are both in Belarus as analysts for BBC Sport, give their verdict on how things are shaping up for GB so far.

BARKER HELPS BRITAIN MAKE PAINLESS PROGRESSION

Boardman: “It is just amazing the way Britain has dominated the women’s team pursuit the way they have. That is not over-stating things either, because they have only lost once in the history of the event.

Britain’s women’s team pursuit line-up

  • 2008 WC gold

    : Wendy Houvenaghel, Jo Rowsell, Rebecca Romero
  • 2009 WC gold:

    Houvenaghel, Rowsell, Liz Armitstead
  • 2010 WC silver:

    Houvenaghel, Rowsell, Armitstead
  • 2011 WC gold:

    Houvenaghel, Laura Trott, , Dani King
  • 2012 WC gold:

    Trott, King, Rowsell
  • 2012 Olympic gold:

    Trott, King, Rowsell
  • 2013 WC gold:

    Trott, King, Elinor Barker

“To keep the kind of form they showed in the year after an Olympic Games is just fantastic. Technically, they rode very well and I liked the fact they switched to taking half-lap turns at the front at the end of the final – there are no egos there.

Hayles: “Elinor stepped up to the plate with no problems at all. It’s probably too easy to say that was a perfect performance by Britain because I am sure there are minute things in that ride that they could change.

“But it was an absolutely faultless ride, it really was. Dani said afterwards they made changes to the way they were doing their laps to eke out a few seconds on the Aussies and they were able to open out a huge gap.”

A BRIGHT FUTURE IN AN EXPANDED EVENT

Hayles: “Minsk was the last time the women’s team pursuit will be held with three riders over 3km – from now on it will be expand to four over 4km – but the change will work in Britain’s favour because they have the strength in depth. At the moment, Jo Rowsell is out of the picture through her own choice, but the plan is for her to come back for Rio.”

Boardman: “The British team has got itself into a wonderful position in this event because whenever a new young rider comes in, they are instantly measuring themselves against a gold-medal winning standard the whole time, as well as gold-medal winning technique, training and attitude.

“It means that whenever you bring somebody new in, they rapidly adapt to having the same approach. It will be the same with four riders as it is with three.”

EMADI EXPERIMENT DOES NOT WORK – THIS TIME

Boardman: “Kian Emadi could not keep up with Phil Hindes and Jason Kenny in the men’s team sprint qualifiers, but he will still have learned a lot from this week.


Great Britain's men's sprint team

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GB men miss out in team sprint

“His problem as the new ‘man three’ in place of Sir Chris Hoy in the team sprint is that Phil consistently makes a world class start, which immediately makes it tough to stay with him. Then he also has Jason in front of him, who is a very sharp rider.

“Maybe there was some fatigue after Kian did the 1km time trial on Wednesday, but it is probably just the fact that he is a young lad and he was absolutely on his limit, as he should be alongside two Olympic champions.

“It was a lot to ask of him, but it doesn’t mean it was a mistake to put him into that position. Britain have tried something different, so hats off to them.”

BRIGHT START FOR WOMEN SPRINTERS


Women's 500m time trial bronze medallist Becky James

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James sprints to time trial bronze

Hayles: “Becky James and Vicky Williamson were in such a difficult position and I was so pleased for them to get Britain’s first medal this week.

“Not only is there no Victoria Pendleton in the team anymore, Jess Varnish was also absent in Belarus because she is injured. To have lost Vicky, and then also Jess who was the next best rider, was hard to take so to still come out with a team sprint bronze was fantastic.

“It was a great ride in a close race and this is what these young riders are here for – to get experience and gain confidence for the future.”

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT IN MEN’S TEAM PURSUIT

Hayles: “On paper, the silver medal for Britain in the men’s team pursuit is good. That is still in the ball-park results-wise. But, in terms of performance, it was below par. You can tell that from the clock and the way they rode.

“But hopefully there won’t be too much disappointment in the team. The trouble is, there is an expectation now that whoever puts a GB jersey on will win medals – and gold ones too. It is not as easy as that.”

Boardman: “There is quite a disparity in abilities in the four-man team and that showed because they struggled to manage the differences between them.

“A silver medal is far from a disaster but it is still a disappointment because the bar has been set so high that nothing but gold is good enough. It will be the same every step of the way to Rio”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/cycling/21541500

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