Geraint Thomas admitted he was “a bit disappointed with the time” after Great Britain qualified second fastest behind Australia for the men’s team pursuit final at the London World Cup.
The 6,000-strong sell-out crowd roared Thomas, Ed Clancy, Pete Kennaugh and Steven Burke to a time of 3:58.446 minutes – but Australia then clocked 3:57.885 to qualify in top spot and setup a tantalising final on Sunday.
“We’re a bit disappointed with the time but we’re always striving for more,” said Thomas, part of Great Britain’s gold-medal winning squad with Clancy, Bradley Wiggins and Paul Manning at the Beijing Olympic Games.
“Even after the Olympic final [in Beijing] we thought we could have got a few more tenths [of a second] out. Technically we wanted to come here and go through the process, and I think we did that. We’ll go away and analyse it tonight and we’ve got plenty of time – two more days – to iron out those factors we can improve on.”
Great Britain started 13th from 18 teams entered at what doubles as the London 2012 test event and the quartet smashed the previous fastest time, set by Belgium, by more than 8 seconds.
The Netherlands, Denmark and New Zealand failed to match the time, before Australia beat it by just over half a second. That meant only the Russian team could displace Great Britain from the gold medal ride but the winners of the previous World Cup round in Beijing produced a ragged ride to finish fifth.
Team pursuit finals traditionally take place 24 hours after qualifying but television schedules dictate Australia, Great Britain, New Zealand and Denmark will now have to wait until Sunday to battle it out in what promises to be a spine-tingling atmosphere.
Clancy said: “We were aiming for about that. It was a little bit slower than what we were looking for, but conditions weren’t quite right.
“[The atmosphere] was bizarre. When you race in front of a home crowd – like at the worlds in Manchester [in 2008] – you have noise like that at the start and at patches throughout the race but that was just noise for the whole 16 laps.
“For qualifying that was a bizarre atmosphere. I can’t believe 6,000 people turned up to watch the qualifying – it was mental, it really was.”
Men’s team pursuit qualifying
1) Australia 3:57.885 minutes
2) Great Britain 3:58.446
3) New Zealand 4:04.218
4) Belgium 4:06.596