The opening two days in the velodrome have brought three Olympic gold medals for Great Britain.
Sir Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny and Victoria Pendleton were three established competitors who delivered performances in London to match their triumphs in Beijng.
But today will offer an opportunity to see a new and equally impressive generation go for gold in the women’s team pursuit, as well giving Kenny the opporunity to move from Hoy’s shadow as he contests the men’s individual sprint.
At 27, Ed Clancy can hardly be described as a veteran, but yesterday joined the elite club of Beijing and London gold medal winners alongside Hoy, Kenny, Pendleton and team pursuit colleague, Geraint Thomas.
Today, Clancy will start his campaign for a third gold, this time in the men’s omnium, an event in which he was world champion in 2010.
Women’s Team Pursuit
In Jo Rowsell, Laura Trott, and Dani King, Great Britain have established their first choice line up for the women’s team pursuit.
All three are aged under 24, and all three are graduates of British Cycling’s Academy, a sign that Great Britain’s dominance of women’s track cycling is unlikely to end with the planned, post-Games retirement of Victoria Pendleton.
The trio won the final round of the UCI Track World Cup in February at the inaugural event at the London velodrome. On that occasion, they defeated a Canadian squad that included the vastly experienced Tara Whitten (who will lead her team today) by setting a world record time of 3.18.148.
Further success followed at the UCI World Track Championships at the Hisense Arena in Melbourne, Australia, in April, where the trio pulled on the rainbow jerseys of world champions after setting another world record, this time in a massively reduced time of 3.15.720.
Their victory Down Under came at the expense of the home nation, whose line up of Annette Edmonson, Melissa Hoskins, and Josephine Tomic, the trio riding in London, finished over 1.2 seconds down on the British team.
Yesterday’s return to the London velodrome proved a memorable one for Rowsell, Trott, and King, who delivered yet another world record, this time of 3.15.669, to qualify fastest, nearly 3.8 seconds faster than the USA, who qualified second.
Only accident or injury can stand in the way of Great Britain’s women’s team pursuit squad now, and in Wendy Houvenaghel, a silver medalist in the individual pursuit in Beijing, and at the world championships in April, they have a reserve rider of vast experience.
Jason Kenny will carry the nation’s hopes in the men’s individual sprint after winning selection for the event over Sir Chris Hoy. The pair last went head-to-head in the semi-final of the world championships in April, and it was Kenny who emerged victorious. The Lancastrian produced a spirited ride against France’s Gregory Bauge in the final, attacking from the gun in the second heat to beat the Frenchman after losing the first, but relegation for a technical infringement handed victory to the man he briefly displaced as 2011 world champion.
Bauge will again represent Kenny’s biggest challenge, but if the Bolton rider’s performance in Thursday’s men’s team sprint is an indication, Kenny is more than equal to the task. Bauge’s French team were soundly beaten by Great Britain in the final, with Kenny’s startlingly second leg the equal of Philip Hindes’ superb effort at ‘man one’. Sir Chris Hoy, riding at man three, admitted after the race that he had difficulty keeping up with Kenny, who is obviously utterly unfazed by the pressure of a home Games.
German’s Robert Forstemann and Australia’s Shane Perkins also represent a threat.
The giant-thighed Forstemann has never tasted international success in the individual sprint, but collected a bronze with German teammates, Rene Enders and Maxmillian Levy, in the men’s team sprint on Thursday.
Perkins was a member of the Australian team defeated by Forstemann’s German team sprint squad on Thursday, but has an impressive pedigree, including a world keirin championship in 2011.
Ed Clancy was world Omnium champion in 2010, but was fourth in his most recent outing in the six-discipline event at the world championships in Australia, where Glenn O’Shea scored an impressive victory on home soil.
O’Shea will be keen to put the disappointment of defeat yesterday in the men’s team pursuit to a Clancy-led Great Britain team behind him, but Clancy, ‘man one’ for Great Britain will fancy his chances in today’s opening event, the 250 metre time trial, a discipline in which he was the clear winner at the world championships.
Other Omnium contenders include Canada’s Zachary Bell, runner-up to O’Shea at the world championships, and tied on points with the Australian before the final 1km time trial discipline, and Elia Viviani (Italy) who has forged an impressive career as a sprinter on the road with the Liquigas-Cannondale WorldTour squad.
Denmark’s Lasse Hansen won the individual pursuit and the scratch race Omnium disicplines at the worlds, and finished third overall, so cannot be discounted from today’s proceedings.