Great Britain celebrated UCI Track World Cup gold in the women’s team pursuit but the men’s team missed out on a medal in another stark reminder of the work ahead before the Tokyo Olympics.
Katie Archibald, Elinor Barker, Ellie Dickinson and Neah Evans, resplendent in the European champions’ jerseys they won last month, beat Germany in the final to take gold in an impressive time of four minutes 12.244 seconds in Glasgow on Friday.
There was also silver for the men’s team sprint squad of Jack Carlin, Ryan Owens and Joe Truman – after Jason Kenny rode with Carlin and Owens in the first two rounds – but Great Britain’s coaches will be concerned by what they saw in the pursuit.
Britain, winners of team pursuit gold at the last three Olympics, have find themselves playing catch-up this time around with the Australians breaking their world record this year and Denmark – gold medal winners here – dominating the European scene.
Problems were clear on Thursday night in qualifying, with the group of Ed Clancy, Charlie Tanfield, Ollie Wood and Ethan Hayter splintering badly to lose three seconds on the final two laps, setting a time which meant bronze was the best they could hope for on Friday.
There were encouraging signs on Friday morning as they set a 3:50.900 in round one to reach the bronze final, but the gremlins reappeared in the final as they lost 1.3 seconds on the last lap to be beaten by the French, prompting a lengthy debrief with coach Ian Dyer in track centre.
Three-time Olympic pursuit champion Ed Clancy described it as a “learning experience” as the team tested different strategies.
“With British Cycling, you’re only going to see our best performance at the Olympics, we throw everything at that,” he said.
“Us guys as riders and coaches and sports scientists, we’ve got to keep moving forward and we’ve got to keep closing that gap between now and (the World Championships in) Berlin to be ready for Tokyo.
“We are on good trajectory, but we’re fully aware this is going to take everything we’ve got.”
If the men appear behind schedule, the women’s team appear to be right on it as they recorded a time more than a second and a half quicker than that which brought European success in Holland.
“It’s the fastest I’ve ever gone, and the fastest the team has gone in a while,” said Evans, who like Archibald was racing on home turf in Scotland.
“We’re now close enough to Tokyo that we’re looking ahead to that and thinking we’ve got so much more to come.
“We’ve still not done a lot of the top end stuff. It’s so encouraging we’re doing these great times and we know in the plan we’ve got more to build on.”
The men’s team sprint squad always knew they were starting as second favourites to the Dutch, who have dominated the big races for the past two years.
Though they set the fastest time in qualifying, they were second to the Dutch in round one and could not change that in the final as Truman stepped in for six-time Olympic champion Kenny.
“We’ve been chipping away at the Dutch for three months now and it’s good to see we’re now starting to compete with them,” said the Paisley-born Carlin.
“Unfortunately Joe got dropped in the final a little bit but that was fast.”
In the women’s team sprint, former swimmer Milly Tanner and Lauren Bate finished sixth, with Tanner riding the radical-looking new bike Britain will take to the Olympics next year.
The two 20-year-olds were taking part to gain experience with Britain focused on gaining qualification to the individual sprint events in Tokyo next year.
The men’s team pursuit also brought disappointment for Huub-Wattbike as the Derby-based squad saw their hopes of a medal dashed by finishing fifth following a poor ride at what will be their final home World Cup before rule changes bar trade teams from competing.