Track World Championships review
Great Britain completed a hugely impressive medal haul in last week’s Track Cycling World Championships and showed encouraging sings with regard to this summer's Olympics. Recent medal tallies haven’t been as high since the sensational effort in 2008, where nine gold medals were won in the World Championships followed by seven at the Olympics, but this year’s is the best since then with six golds, four silvers and three bronzes.
This being an Olympic year, the British team’s hard work over the last few years is targeted to peak this August in London and their hopes at dominating again in the velodrome look good; though Australia matched them for golds this time round, significantly only three were in Olympic events, compared to Great Britain’s five. These numbers are no coincidence, as upon learning of the shakeup of the disciplines to be held during the Olympics British cycling refocused their efforts
Such planning is typical of performing director Dave Brailsford, a man renowned for his obsession with controlling variables and marginal gains, and even more renowned for his success doing so. His meticulous planning was on full show as Great Britain took early gold medals in both the men’s and women’s team pursuits, fending off the strong competition with world records. The opposition in these events since 2008 may have improved drastically, most notably the hosts Australia who lost in the finals of both, but the Great Britain team is working hard to stay ahead of the field.
Along with her gold in the women’s team pursuit, Laura Trott became the only British cyclist to win two golds at the championship when she completed victory in the omnium. The six event long discipline is one of the new events on the Olympic schedule, and Trott’s win shows Great Britain have adapted well. That’s not to say non-Olympic events have been overlooked, with Ben Swift managing an impressive haul of gold in the men’s scratch race, silver in the points race and silver with Geraint Thomas in the Madison, all events not scheduled for London.
The most dramatic racing was reserved for the sprint competitions, particularly Victoria Pendleton’s duel with long-term rival Anna Mears. A high-speed crash in the semi-final against Meares put Pendleton one down, and when Meares won the second leg comfortably it looked for a few minutes that Pendleton’s campaign was over. But the Australian was disqualified for riding outside of the sprinter’s line and Pendleton went on to win the decider by the smallest of margins in a heated encounter. Pendelton then won the final in similar circumstances, with opponent Simona Krupeckaite being disqualified also for illegal sprinting.
The men’s sprints too delivered their share of drama, as both Jason Kenny and Sir Chris Hoy put in audacious moves to varying degrees of success. First Kenny, having overcome Hoy in the semi finals, decided that the only way to beat Frenchman Gregory Bauge in the final was to go for the unorthodox tactic of attacking straight from the outset.
The move appeared to work as Kenny crossed the line first, but again the officials stepped in and disqualified Kenny for infringing the sprinting line. Hoy however was more successful in his audacity, wining the kerin gold in a breathtaking instinctual move that saw him move into a tiny space going into the final straight and come from nowhere to cross the line first and take Great Britain’s sixth and final gold. That Braislford has to choose between the two for each sprint discipline shows just how strong Great Britain’s team in, and another golden Olympics campaign looks on the horizon.