Victoria Pendleton & Jess Varnish win gold in world record time
Victoria Pendleton and Jess Varnish seal the women's sprint gold in a world record time at the UCI World Cup in London
Sir Chris Hoy might be the standard-bearer for British cycling but he was all but forgotten on a triumphant night for his team-mates at the UCI World Cup.
The excitable announcer at London’s shiny new velodrome had promised the crowd would ‘blow off the roof’ and ‘literally burst with pride’ and, while thankfully no injuries were reported, it was certainly an explosive evening for the hosts.
First Victoria Pendleton and Jess Varnish claimed the scalp of Australia’s Kaarle McCulloch and Anna Meares to win the women’s team sprint, rewriting the world record their arch-rivals had set during qualifying.
Then Great Britain’s world champion women’s team pursuit squad claimed gold and also smashed the world record, which had stood for just a few minutes.
After two golds and two world records it was almost an anti-climax for the capacity 6,000 crowd when Ross Edgar, Jason Kenny and Hoy beat Australia to win team sprint bronze, after they had ranked fourth in qualifying.
But they know they have work to do to catch up with world champions Germany and a powerful French team, who claimed gold and silver respectively, with both their times fractionally quicker than Great Britain’s 43.781 secs.
“When you look at what the Germans did we are only about a bike-length-and-a-half behind them,” said Hoy.
“There is obviously big room for improvement but we are not that far away and there can be no excuses. We are a new formation but we’ve got a medal here and that’s progress for us.
“It was solid, bordering on pleasing. We had a few glitches in that race that we need to work on but we can build on this event for the Worlds and Olympics.
“The support was amazing and maybe we got a bit carried away with that after a fast start but we were happy to improve.”
Hoy’s bigger challenges lie ahead, first he will compete in Saturday’s keirin before Sunday’s much-anticipated match sprint, where he knows that team-mate and world champion Kenny is pushing hard for the one available Olympic spot.
That’s just one of British cycling’s intriguing selection worries, the other is deciding the make up of the women’s team pursuit squad.
Dani King, who was part of the world and European championship winning team last year, sat out the qualifiers but replaced Olympic silver medallist Wendy Houvenhaghel for the final, joining forces with Laura Trott and Joanna Rowsell.
Rivals Canada had gone quicker in qualifying but Britain were always ahead in the 3km race, clocking 3.18.148 to carve more than a second off the mark Australia, who won bronze, had posted in the previous race.
“I felt I had a point to prove but I believed in myself,” said King.
“Last week I didn’t make selection but I kept my head screwed on and kept focused.
“I supported the girls in qualifying as best as I could and when I got the call this morning I just thought, “I can do this.”
“The girls were amazing so I have to thank them for believing in me. I’m absolutely ecstatic.
“This world record is going to keep tumbling as all the teams keep stepping up but this is a great stepping stone now towards the Worlds and, of course, the Olympics.
“But we are a team of four and Wendy was really pleased with how we went. She is a really important member of the team.”
King also paid tribute to partisan home supporters, who played their part in roaring the hosts to victory.
“It’s difficult not to get carried away with your emotions in this atmosphere but that have that crowd behind you is amazing,” she added.
Pendleton has spent the last few days telling anyone that will listen that this week’s event was an almost irrelevant stepping stone towards the Olympics.
But after winning team sprint gold, smashing the world record and claiming the scalp of Australian arch-rival Anna Meares, alongside British team-mate Jess Varnish, she struggled to hide her joy.
To say that Pendleton and Meares don’t like each other would not be doing justice to their rivalry – and with next month’s World Championships in Melbourne each head-to-head during the Olympic countdown has added meaning.
“I can’t explain how great it feels to get the world record,” said Pendleton, who had watched Meares and team-mate Kaarle McCulloch set the velodrome’s first world best in qualifying.
“When the Australians broke the record this morning it definitely spurred us on.
“We knew it would be close and you can never rule out the Aussies as they are such a strong team.
“To come here and perform like this just fills us with confidence.
“The gap was so small after qualifying that we knew we could get the gold with the support of the amazing crowd.”
But considering both Great Britain and Australia are still in heavy training, safe money would suggest last night’s world record will be rewritten again in exactly 165 days time.
“We are surprised to go that quick already,” said Varnish. “There is still plenty of time to experiment with a few things and go faster.”