Great Britain’s men’s team pursuit squad suffered their worst result in 15 years after finishing eighth on the opening day of the UCI Track World Championships in Cali, Colombia.
But Becky James and Jess Varnish rescued a disappointing day for Great Britain with bronze in the women’s team sprint after there male counterparts also failed to medal.
Ed Clancy, Owain Doull, Sam Harrison and Jon Dibben clocked four minutes and 4.419 seconds to finish more than than four seconds down on fastest qualifiers Denmark in the men’s team pursuit heats. Defending champions Australia went on to beat the Danes in the final, while New Zealand pipped Russia to the bronze medal.
Great Britain were without former world champion Andy Tennant Olympic gold medallist Steven Burke, both ruled out through illness, and Clancy admitted the team’s preparations had been far from perfect.
“We didn’t announce it on Twitter but behind the scenes we’ve had some problems,” said Clancy. “We knew a week ago our back was against the wall [but] despite the fact we didn’t have a couple of our more established riders in the line-up, we were still hoping to get a ride in the final.
“That’s sport. Some days you go better than you think, other days you don’t go quite so well. We have tried a bit of a different approach for these track worlds. Perhaps it just hasn’t paid off.
“It’s like a stack of cards – if one part falls down it all comes tumbling down pretty quickly. There wasn’t one of us that was really on fire. We’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. We can still get some medals yet.”
The men’s team sprint squad also failed to qualify for a medal ride-off in Cali, meaning Great Britain have still not won world championship gold since 2005.
Despite being Olympic champions, Britain’s record at the worlds means Jason Kenny and Philip Hindes – who were joined by Kian Emadi for the heat – have never been crowned world champions in the event.
The British trio set a time of 43.617 seconds, which placed them fifth – 0.134 seconds off a place in the bronze medal final.
Last year’s silver medallists New Zealand qualified fastest and went on to beat Germany’s much-fancied defending champions in the final. France took bronze for the second year running, beating Russia to the final spot on the podium.
“We’re disappointed with the result, but the time itself and the way we rode wasn’t that bad,” said Kenny. “It could’ve been a little bit tidier.
“We’re only fractions off and we’ve definitely made a step forward, particularly from where we were last year. We’ve been consistently getting better this year, which is promising.”
There was better news for Britain’s women’s sprint squad, however, with James and Varnish combining to win bronze.
German powerhouses Kristina Vogel and Miriam Welte, the world record holders and defending champions, qualified fastest and went on to beat China to the gold medal.
But James and Varnish, having finished third in qualifying in 33.214 seconds, went on to beat Russia to earn Great Britain’s first medal of this year’s championships.
“It was a solid performance tonight,” Varnish said. “It’s a really different track to what we’ve ridden on and you can’t really compare it to other performances. I think we should be happy. It’s a really good start.”
The only other Brit in action on day one was Dani King, who contested the scratch race, finishing eighth as Belgium’s Kelly Druyts beat Katarzyna Pawlowska (Poland) and Evegenia Romanyuta (Russia) to gold.
Ireland’s Caroline Ryan had earlier made a solo bid for gold but was caught by the bunch with little more than ten metres remaining.
Day two will see Great Britain’s all-conquering women’s team pursuit squad in action as they look to secure the first gold medal of the championships.