Jason Kenny, Jack Carlin and Ryan Owens delivered a silver medal and a British record in the men’s team sprint, but the opening day of the UCI Track Cycling World Championships offered worrying signs for their team pursuit counterparts five months out from the Tokyo Olympics.
Kenny, Carlin and Owens had no answer in the final as the Dutch trio of Roy Van Den Berg, Harrie Lavreysen and Jeffrey Hoogland broke the world record they had set in the first round with a time of 41.225 seconds, but will still consider the day a significant step forward.
But it was a different story for Ed Clancy, Charlie Tanfield, Ethan Hayter and Ollie Wood in men’s team pursuit as Britain failed to medal at a Worlds for only the fourth time in 21 years and saw the gap to the rest of the world grow.
In a blistering qualifying session, the Danish quartet of Lasse Hansen, Julius Johansen, Fredrik Madsen and Rasmus Pedersen smashed the world record with a time of 3mins 46.579secs, taking a second and a half off the mark of 3:48.012 posted by Australia in Pruszkow last year.
But the Danes – now with Tanfield’s former team-mate and aerodynamicist Dan Bigham in their corner – lowered the mark again with a 3:46.203 in the first round to set up a gold medal race against New Zealand on Thursday.
Italy, whose time of 3:46.513 was remarkable in its own right, got the scant reward of a bronze medal ride against France.
Britain’s qualifying time of 3:50.341 was half a second up on their silver-medal winning performance last year, but they have still never gone faster than the 3:50 mark and have seen six other nations – Denmark, France, Italy, New Zealand, Australia and Switzerland – do so this winter.
“Fair play to the Danes, they have moved the goalposts there,” said Clancy. “It’s not supposed to be easy to win Olympic medals and that was made apparent today. To do it once, twice even three times, to get to four Olympic team pursuit medals was going to be difficult.
“That said, we’ve seen it time and time again in previous Olympic cycles where the British team has jumped forward three or four seconds between the worlds and the Olympics.
“If that happens again, there’s no guarantees in sport but it’s highly likely we’ll do our best performance in a few months.”
The Berlin velodrome was clearly riding fast.
Before Denmark demolished Australia’s world record in the men’s event, the United States and Great Britain topped the timesheets in qualifying for the women’s team pursuit, with their respective times of 4:11.229 and 4:11.871 the second and third fastest times ever.
Britain will face Canada in round one on Thursday for a shot at gold.
The records continued to fall in the men’s team sprint, as the Dutch beat Germany’s seven-year-old world record with a 41.275 in the first round, then bettered it in the final.
“They surprised us, but we always knew they were going to go well,” Carlin said. “They are a team of abnormal human beings. Any time a team comes close to them, they take another step forward, but that’s good. They can only take so many steps.”
Britain’s time of 42.294 bettered the British record of 42.339 set by Kenny, Kian Emadi and Phil Hindes at altitude in Aguascalientes back in 2013.
“To break it outside the Games is a big step,” Kenny said. “We tend to save our best for the Games so to do it here is a really good achievement.”
Laura Kenny, racing just a month after breaking her shoulder in Canada, missed out on a medal in the scratch race by the width of a tyre, pushed into a very close fourth place as Holland’s Kirsten Wild took victory
“I’m a little bit disappointed, fourth is obviously the worst place you can finish,” said Kenny, who sat out the team pursuit due to her injuries but plans to ride again in Friday’s omnium.
“But I feel like I had good legs and that’s almost why it is frustrating. When I am on the bike, (the shoulder) is absolutely fine.”