Rio 2016: Gold rush for GB cycling

Britain's team, from left, Katie Archibald, Joanna Rowsell Shand, Elinor Barker and Laura Trott celebrate after winning gold in the women's team pursuit finals cycling event at the Rio Olympic Velodrome during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.
Britain's team, from left, Katie Archibald, Joanna Rowsell Shand, Elinor Barker and Laura Trott celebrate after winning gold in the women's team pursuit finals cycling event at the Rio Olympic Velodrome during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.
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Great Britain’s dominance of the Olympic Velodrome continues after a third gold medal was won on Saturday and a fourth was guaranteed for Sunday.

Laura Trott became Britain’s most successful female Olympian with her third gold medal in winning the women’s team pursuit alongside Joanna Rowsell-Shand, Elinor Barker and Katie Archibald.

Becky James won Keirin silver, little more than a year after returning from a career-threatening knee injury.

And Jason Kenny will meet team-mate and room-mate Callum Skinner in the sprint final, aiming for his fifth Olympic gold. It is the same scenario as 2008 when Kenny took sprint silver behind room-mate Sir Chris Hoy.

The dominance of Britain in Rio has echoes of Beijing, where seven of 10 track titles were won. The feat was repeated at London 2012.

They will have four golds and one silver from six medal events by Sunday evening, having taken part in five of them.

Failing to qualify for the women’s team sprint was the catalyst for the resignation of technical director Shane Sutton in April following a string of discrimination allegations which he denies.

But there is no denying Britain’s riders have put the controversy behind them to rise to the occasion in Rio.

Trott, who could win her fourth gold in the six-discipline omnium, which begins on Monday, said: “It feels incredible. You try not to think about it coming into a race but people were tweeting me and writing articles about it.

“It almost feels like I shouldn’t have achieved it in a way. I still feel like that young girl that started down at Welwyn Wheelers.”

Sir Bradley Wiggins, Ed Clancy, Steven Burke and Owain Doull won Britain’s second Olympic gold in the men’s team pursuit on Friday and victory followed in the corresponding women’s race 24 hours later.

Britain’s women had a four-year unbeaten sequence which included London 2012, but since the expansion to four riders and four kilometres, the world had caught up.

Britain finished third after a lowly qualifying finish at March’s Track World Championships in London as the United States won gold, but Archibald was absent due to a fractured elbow and knee injury sustained during an unauthorised motorbike trip.

The 22-year-old from Milngavie returned to combine with Trott, Rowsell-Shand and Barker to set world records in all three rides as Trott overtook cyclist Victoria Pendleton, swimmer Rebecca Adlington and athlete Dame Kelly Holmes as Britain’s most successful female Olympian.

The final was a duel with the USA, who had the early lead before Britain accelerated to finish in four minutes 10.236 seconds, three seconds faster than the world record prior to Rio.

The USA were a distant second in 4mins 12.454secs.

It was Rowsell-Shand’s second gold. She and Trott topped the podium in the event at London 2012 on ‘Super Saturday’, with Dani King.

“Looking back, London wasn’t easy at all, but I think this has been a harder battle here,” Rowsell-Shand said.

“We’ve gone into it with our work cut out to beat the rest of the world.”

Seventeen minutes later, James produced a thrilling final lap to finish second behind Holland’s Elis Ligtlee. Australia’s Anna Meares ended up with bronze.

Since winning sprint and Keirin world titles in Minsk in 2013, James had a cancer scare and a knee injury which left her unable to ride a bike for fourth months.

The 24-year-old from Abergavenny, whose boyfriend is Wales and British and Irish Lions rugby player George North, advanced in supreme fashion by winning her heat and was even more impressive in the second round, following Meares into the final.

She was bidding to succeed London 2012 winner Pendleton as champion but began the final lap in sixth and last place.

She followed the instruction of coach Jan van Eijden to go round high up the outside and powered round the final bend into the medal positions. She might have won, but ran out of track.

James said: “It was a pretty frustrating race. I left it as late as I could.

“I didn’t think I was going to get anywhere near round. I could have done with an extra couple of metres, but I’m absolutely thrilled with that medal.

“To think where I was a year ago from now to where I am now, I would never have imagined it.”

James has another opportunity in the sprint, which begins on Sunday and concludes on Tuesday, while Mark Cavendish’s six-discipline, two-day omnium campaign also starts on Sunday.

Kenny and Skinner, team sprint champions together with Phil Hindes on Thursday, will duel for sprint gold on Sunday.

Kenny won the selection nod ahead of Hoy four years ago when the competition was limited to one rider per nation and claimed gold.

Two riders are now permitted again and Kenny and Skinner qualified in first and second place before making strong progress to the semi-finals.

Kenny needed all three bouts to beat Denis Dmitriev of Russia 2-1, while Skinner beat Australia’s Matthew Glaetzer 2-0 to advance.