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Special Edition Cycling News, March 28, 2008

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Manchester: Boardman buoyant with British

Team pursuiters "learned to live on the edge"

By Shane Stokes in Manchester

Bradley Wiggins leads the Great Britain team
Photo ©: John Pierce
(Click for larger image)

Day two of the Manchester world track championships was a special one for the Great Britain team, with a total of three gold medals and two world records going to its riders in front of a particularly vocal home crowd.

Rebecca Romero won the women's individual pursuit, Shanaze Reade and Victoria Pendleton took the women's team sprint and the quartet of Bradley Wiggins, Ed Clancy, Paul Manning and Geraint Thomas dominated the men's team pursuit. World records were set in the latter two events; Reade and Pendleton scorched around the track at over 54 km/h to record 33"186 in the qualifiers and the team pursuit riders laid down a time of 3'56"322 in their final.

Taking into account Wiggins' gold medal from Wednesday's opening day of the competitions, the GB team has now won four championship titles. Thus far, it is on course to equal or better the seven goals set in Majorca 2007, and has also scored an important psychological advantage over its opponents for Beijing.

Former world hour record holder and Olympic gold medallist Chris Boardman is one of the country's most famous riders and now part of the support structure for the British competitors. He was one of those celebrating the showing on Thursday, and gave his reaction to Cyclingnews.

"It really shouldn't come as a surprise as they have worked towards it," he said of the team pursuit world record. "This has been going on for months, really, but for the past few weeks they have been doing specific work on the track. They have been doing everything again and again. They know each other so well, and they know their own limits now."

The Great Britain team were actually only second-quickest in the qualifiers, recording a time 1.25 seconds off the 3'57"73 set by the Danish quartet. However, Boardman said that the riders kept their minds on the job. "That is the fastest they have ever qualified, so they didn't panic," he stated. "They just rejigged the same team, worked out how they were going to re-use their energy, decided who was going to be shorter on the turns, and had the confidence to implement it. They didn't think about the other team at all. It [the final] was phenomenal to watch.

"Just to see it executed is always a shock, and a surprise. Denmark went so fast... I wonder if they would have pushed themselves so hard if Denmark hadn't done so? So that certainly helped."

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Apart from Great Britain, Denmark also went under the four minute barrier in both the qualifiers and the finals, while Australia (4'00"10) and New Zealand (4'00"83) were just outside it. The recently-resurfaced Manchester track is proving to be a fast one. However, it is Great Britain's new world record which will be on the minds of the other teams, the new standard highlighting that those riders will be the ones to beat in Beijing.

Boardman felt that the record will quite possibly intimidate the other teams. "It doesn't do them any good to know that you can ride under four minutes but you still just about get on the podium. Thing is, I still don't think the British guys have gone as fast as they can go, to be honest. There is more to come from them, and there's other bits of equipment and stuff that we have yet to throw in - that might polish it even further."

He said that the team stepped up a gear in 2007 due to taking more risks. "They changed the strategy last year. It was quite subtle but it had always been a case of not being on the edge, always being cautious. They switched it last year and decided that they were going to live right on the edge and blow it apart. They accept they might blow apart themselves but they said they are still going to stay there and learn to live with it.

"So with all the training, with every ride they did, they never said 'we did just enough'. They said that they are going to go to the absolute limit and learn to manage it. And I think that is what they have done."

It was, he said, a question of knowing what each was capable of. "From first ride to second ride today, they looked at people's form, they shuffled it around a little bit and everybody was on their own personal limit. Gee [Geraint Thomas] was doing half-lap turns, Bradley was doing two lap turns, but everybody was on their own personal limit. Probably the way to sum it up is that they have learned to live on the edge."

Clancy and Manning react to world record

By Shane Stokes in Manchester

Great Britain's pursuit team on its way to the new world record
Photo ©: John Pierce
(Click for larger image)

"To get the world record is incredible," said Ed Clancy after the Great Britain team's gold-medal ride in the team pursuit final. "To do it with these guys is unbelievable; Brad, Paul and Geraint are my best mates. So it is a great feeling.

"We have known for months that the record could be on. However it is one thing having the numbers on paper, but it is another getting up there with the right conditions, having four good riders with good legs and actually doing it. We were on 3'56" schedule, which is world record pace. Every lap we got a bit of feedback and nine times out of ten the indications were that we were on pace. So I knew we would be there or thereabouts."

The Great Britain team were well beaten by Denmark's quartet in the qualification round. Others might have been intimidated by the 1"25 second margin, but Clancy's team-mate Paul Manning said that the riders remained focused on the task and believed it was possible to take gold.

"It is a bit of a cliche but we just concentrated on our own game plan," he told Cyclingnews. "We set a schedule that we thought would be enough to win and we pretty much held on to it in the end. I guess the pressure and the support of our whole crowd was in our favour as well, so we just enjoyed that.

"The thing is, we always do such a good second ride... for example, Bradley showed what he can do on his second ride yesterday [in the individual pursuit]. Traditionally we go a bit quicker in our second ride, as we did [to the Danes] in Copenhagen."

Given the time difference between the qualifiers and the world record the GB quartet set in the final, it appeared that they may have kept something in reserve earlier in the day. Clancy played down this suggestion, saying that it was actually a reshuffling of the team order which led to the quicker pace.

"To be honest we weren't really holding back. I think it is fair to say - as Geraint [Thomas] would be the first to admit it - we put him in the man two position down the bottom of the track. It takes a lot out of you there as you have to start quickly at the bottom. It is the first time he has raced from there with the senior squad, and he struggled a bit with that. We then put him back to man four in the final and everyone was flying."

Each of the riders will now return to road racing, focusing on that for the next couple of months before then increasing their track work once more prior to Beijing. Manning and Clancy will be competing with their Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner squad, Bradley Wiggins will do the same with Team High Road and both Geraint Thomas and Steve Cummings will revert to the colours of Barloworld.

Thomas looks to Giro for Beijing form

By Ben Atkins in Manchester

Geraint Thomas, a member of the world record breaking Great Britain pursuit team, and the youngest rider in last summer's Tour de France, is looking to Italy's number one stage race to help him prepare for the track events in August's Olympic games.

This would not be possible - and neither would a successful track programme - if it were not for the full support of his Pro Continental Barloworld team. "They're really good actually like that," Thomas told Cyclingnews as he warmed up for his team's qualification round. "Letting me prepare solely for this and also the Games as well. I told them I wanted to ride the Giro as well just for the endurance you get from that, just for the Games, and they're happy to put me in - obviously if I'm going well enough."

Track and road racing require very different types of form, but Thomas is confident that he can switch from the boards back to the tarmac in time for the race's May 10th start in Palermo, Sicily. "Last year I got my road legs back after about four weeks and I think the Giro is about six weeks away so it should be fine."

Despite being the youngest rider at last year's Tour, he finished quite strongly and hopes to build on that experience to help him to get around a tough Italian course. "I learned a lot there," he continued, "and I can just take that with me now. It's still going to be a hard fight to finish it, but I'm definitely looking forward to getting stuck into the road now."

The Return of Australian Team Pursuiting

By Ben Atkins in Manchester

Brad McGee leading the Australian team in the hunt for bronze
Photo ©: Nick Rosenthal
(Click for larger image)

A bronze medal would have been regarded as a disappointment a few years ago for a nation bred on Olympic titles and World records, but after a time away from the top echelons of team pursuiting, this marks a successful return for Australia.

Were it not for the confusion caused when Graeme Brown failed to notice Luke Roberts dropping out in the final kilometre, the medal winning time could have been much faster. "If you look at the times in the results, you'd thing 'Ahh, the Aussies are past it' maybe, but I don't think so. I think for us this is just a stepping stone for Beijing, and four minutes we're very happy with," said a slightly embarrassed Brown.

"I just didn't know," he said of his missed changeover. "I was just focused on the race and I didn't hear a ‘three', I'm sure it was yelled a hundred times but I didn't hear or see or anything. I just swung for four guys - for three guys - and I just saw out of the corner of my eye that there's only two there, and I swung down the track as hard as I could and dug it in. It's lucky Brad was thinking quick and sat up a bit, and gave me a bit more of a chase and a bit more slipstream. So his quick thinking might have saved the day."

Bradley McGee confirmed what their performance could have been, had the hiccup not occurred. "I think we were on a low 59, which would have been nice. Brownie asked me this morning what I reckoned we do in the race and I said a flat 59," McGee added. If the last few laps had gone more smoothly, this would have sent out a clear message that the reigning Olympic champions are well on track for August's Games. A sub-four-minute time from a team that has had such little recent track time would be a considerable result.

Speaking on the subject of the rival British team's shattering of Australia's world record, McGee was congratulatory, yet cautiously optimistic about his own team's ability to close the gap in time for Beijing: "I think the British have performed to a level, them, us, and everyone else expected, and good on ‘em. The pressure was on, because they've obviously put a lot of work in to be on super form here at the World Championships in front of a home crowd, and they've come up with the goods. Now it's up to them to maintain that intensity right through to August.

"I'm not saying... how can I put this? We've got a lot of work to do, we're on the way up and that's a very powerful thing to ride with. It's going to be an interesting time over the next few months to see us put our package together, and what they can do to maintain or try and increase. I think once again we'll see some very spectacular racing come Beijing."

Reade underlines commitment to BMX; no track in Beijing

By Shane Stokes in Manchester

Victoria Pendleton and Shanaze Reade (Great Britain)
Photo ©: Nick Rosenthal
(Click for larger image)

Along with Victoria Pendleton, Shanaze Reade took a world record on day two of the world track championships and also defended the gold medal they first won in the team sprint last year. However, the 19 year-old has reiterated that BMX will be her sole focus at the upcoming Olympic Games.

Reade took three World, eight European and five British BMX championships at junior level and last season won her first gold medal in the senior BMX Worlds. She fits in track cycling around the BMX season and has shown outstanding promise despite this limited velodrome time.

"For now, BMX will definitely be my main focus for 2008," she stated, while also floating the possibility that a change in direction might be possible after that. "I just take every week as it comes and see where it takes me. I would like to be able to do a little bit more than six weeks on the track each year. Maybe in the future I could become a track cyclist, but only time will tell."

Reade and Pendleton recorded a time of 33"186 in the qualifiers, well ahead of China's 33"943. That was particularly satisfying for her. "I am just speechless to break the world record with such an amazing athlete such as Victoria," she stated. "It is a massive achievement from me to come here and win, and also to get a personal best in my own lap as well. It is unbelievable."

Reade also drew encouragement from her performance in the 500 metre time trial, even if she wasn't in the running for medals. "I looked at the splits for the 500 last night and I think I was either winning or second for a lap and a half. That is a massive achievement to me. I got seventh overall, which was slightly slower than last year, but then I went out with a faster lap.

"Today I went out at world record time for the lap. For me, the priority is all about the team sprint and if Victoria doesn't do the 500, then I step in. When I step into her shoes I try to do us proud. I have had a fantastic Worlds and a greater experience than I did in Majorca."

Mactier disappointed with bronze

Katie Mactier's time in the bronze ride would have given her silver
Photo ©: CJ Farquharson
(Click for larger image)

In the women's 3km individual pursuit battle for bronze, 2004 Olympic silver medallist, Katie Mactier, also led from the front and held her form to deny Wendy Houvenaghel of Great Britain a place on the podium. Mactier finished almost two seconds faster than Houvenaghel, but was disappointed to not have made the ride off for gold.

"That's the point, that's where we want to be," said the 2005 World Champion, who has finished third for the past three years. "Third isn't good enough, but I rode a fast time in the bronze ride that would have given me a silver, so, while it's disappointing to get the bronze, we know what we need to do for the Olympics.

"We didn't do a really big block of track work before this week, because we'll do that heading into Beijing," she added. "There was nothing wrong with how I felt, but at the Olympics there are three rounds and from past experience my second ride is always better than by first one and I'll have that second chance."

At World Championships the fastest two qualifiers ride off for gold and silver while the next two fastest contest the race for bronze. At the Olympic Games the top eight qualifiers qualify for a second round of head to head competition from which the fastest two winners vie for gold and the slowest two winners contest the bronze medal race.

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