Sir Bradley Wiggins made a medal-winning return to the track as the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games kicked off.
Track cycling at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome was one of the events to start this year’s Games, and Wiggins linked up with Ed Clancy, Steven Burke and Andy Tennant to win silver in the men’s team pursuit.
Meanwhile, Scotland opened their cycling medal account as para cycling veteran Aileen McGlynn and pilot Louise Haston won silver in the tandem sprint, behind English pairing Sophie Thornhill and Helen Scott.
The speed of the track was immediately obvious as Games Records fell in the men’s sprint qualifying – Peter Lewis (Australia), Sam Webster (New Zealand), Ed Dawkins (New Zealand) and Matthew Glaetzer (Australia) all, in turn, shaving a fraction of the record.
Lewis Oliva (Wales), Callum Skinner (Scotland) and England trio Jason Kenny, Matt Crampton and Phil Hindes all qualified for the next round too, while McGlynn/Haston and Thornhill/Scott proved their form in the tandem sprint qualifying.
Wiggins was the star attraction in the Velodrome, however, and proved how he has become Great Britain’s joint most-decorated Olympian with a strong ride on the boards.
Starting out at man four in the heat, Wiggins pulled two big shifts on the front as England became one of only two teams – alongside Australia – to break the four minute mark in qualifying.
Fourth on to the track, Wiggins, Clancy and Tennant booked their place in the gold medal final with a great ride, despite losing Burke on the final lap.
New Zealand, who were seen as a big threat to England’s place in the final, started faster but their challenge quickly faded – losing a man early before a disjointed effort from the final three saw them lose more than a second to England’s time.
Australia, boasting their own road star in Belkin’s Jack Bobridge, went comfortably quicker than England, however, to set up an evening’s showdown between the two.
In between, McGlynn and Haston were roared to success in their sprint semi-final, with Thornhill and Scott ensuring an all-British final as both despatched of their Australian opponents in two rounds.
There was less success in the men’s sprint, however, as all five British riders were forced to go through the repechages for a place in the quarter-final – Crampton and Kenny eventually triumphing.
By contrast, Australia’s Glaetzer appeared to be the man to beat as he looked to replicate compatriot Shane Perkins’ Delhi success of four years ago.
Hindes and Kenny recovered by the second session however, teaming up with Kian Emadi as England smashed the Games record in the team sprint.
Hindes led the team out, shaving a fraction off Australia’s first lap, before Kenny and a superb final lap by Emadi ensured England would be racing for the gold medal.
World champions New Zealand, the final team out, were in similarly scintillating form – going even faster than the English trio to snatch the record and ensure a gold medal showdown between the two.
Scotland, however, narrowly missed a shot at a medal despite a phenomenal second lap by Skinner.
Teaming up with Johnny Biggin and Chris Pritchard, Skinner’s second lap had initially put the hosts in a great position but Pritchard faded towards the end of his final lap as the Scots missed out on fourth place by just 0.2 seconds.
The home fans continued to make their presence felt inside the velodrome bearing the name of their most famous son however, particularly when McGlynn and Haston returned for their final.
In the first heat, Thornhill and Scott looked to have wrapped up a comfortable victory but a resurgent Scottish performance meant there was just half a wheel in it come the finish.
It prompted McGlynn and Haston to lead out the second sprint, but Scott and Thornhill seized the advantage on the final lap to take gold.
Elsewhere, Anna Meares (Australia) beat compatriot Steph Morton to gold in the women’s 500m time trial, with Jess Varnish (England) taking bronze.
The Australians were in similarly scintillating form in the men’s team pursuit final too, flying out of the blocks.
Clancy, Burke, Tennant and Wiggins looked to respond but the huge engines of Bobridge and Glenn O’Shea had soon built up a commanding lead.
Wiggins was roared to the front at the halfway point as Australia’s efforts cost them the services of Luke Davison and the remaining trio briefly fell apart.
However, with O’Shea pulling a huge shift on the front, the Australians recovered and – despite Clancy burying himself on his final turn – had almost caught their opponents by the final lap.
England managed to avoid the premature end, but Australia marched through to set a Games Record of 3.54.851.
It meant Wiggins had to settle for a fourth career silver medal in the Commonwealth Games, with an elusive Commonwealth gold continuing to elude him.
The men’s team sprint trio then followed suit, having to settle for silver behind world champions New Zealand in the final.
The start was delayed slightly as a problem with Hindes’ bike was corrected but New Zealand were soon into their stride, making big gains on the second lap.
And the team in black stormed to another Games Record to sign off the first day in style.
Commonwealth Games 2014: day one – results
Men’s team pursuit
3) New Zealand
Women’s para-sport tandem sprint
1) Sophie Thornhill/Helen Scott (England)
2) Aileen McGlynn/Louise Haston (Scotland)
3) Brandie O’Connor/Breanna Hargreaves (Australia)
Women’s 500m time trial
1) Anna Meares (Australia)
2) Steph Morton (Australia)
3) Jessica Varnish (England)
Men’s team sprint
1) New Zealand