British track bosses believe they can still lead the way at London 2012 despite new rules and the steady comeback of rivals who are determined not to suffer another Olympic nightmare. Britain’s track success in Beijing four years ago when they won seven of the 10 golds left their rivals’ dreams in tatters. However changes to the Olympic program, and new rules meaning only one competitor per nation is allowed in each event have already reduced Britain’s scope for success in London. In the years since Beijing Britain have not always performed to their Olympic best. But after a four-day World Cup Olympic test event at the London velodrome, high performance director Dave Brailsford was buoyed by his team’s performances.
“This is the best performance across the board for a good couple of years,” said Brailsford, whose team won seven medals from 10 Olympic events – four gold, one silver and two bronze. “It shows we’re building momentum, we’re heading in the right direction and hopefully we’ve got our timing right.”
His biggest worry seems to be which riders to select for key Olympic battles in London, notably in the men’s sprint and team sprint. Brailsford will also have concerns about a men’s pursuit team, which again fell to an impressive Australian quartet that came close to Britain’s world record of 3:53:314 in 3:54.615.
Jason Kenny, the sprint silver medal winner in Beijing, has been pushing four-time Olympic champion Sir Chris Hoy for the sole sprint spot for the Games. Hoy, however, set his Olympic stall out at the weekend in imperious fashion, winning both the keirin and a quality-packed sprint tournament. Although final selection is not due until after the April 4-8 world championships in Melbourne and Brailsford admitted Hoy had come “back into the form of his life”, he said nothing is decided. “None of the decisions are made yet. We’ll see where we are come April, May.”
Australia look the real deal in the 16-lap pursuit but Brailsford believes Ed Clancy, Peter Kennaugh, Steven Burke and Geraint Thomas can continue closing the gap.
“If you just take our performance, where it was and where it is now, they have made big strides forward and they’re going to continue to get better,” added Brailsford.
While Britain won both the women’s team sprint and team pursuit finals at the weekend, Australia were not far behind. But in the three-man team sprint, Britain look to have a real dilemma. The Olympic champions finished third on Friday as an on-form Germany beat world champions France to the gold. As ‘man one’ for Britain, Ross Edgar admitted he underperformed in his crucial first lap. The Scot now threatens being shunted aside as Britain look to secure the fastest possible starter against the super-fast German and French in what looks set to be one of the most hotly-contested finals at the Games.
“We’re going to have to look at that very carefully,” said Brailsford. “We decided we’d look to see where Ross was at, but given our performance here, you’ve got to go faster and you’ve got to build it from the front.”