Swift considering his options as countdown to London continues

Great Britain's, front to back, Peter Kennaugh, Geraint Thomas, Ed Clancy and Steven Burke race in the final of the men's team pursuit at the Track Cycling World Championships in Melbourne, Australia
Great Britain's, front to back, Peter Kennaugh, Geraint Thomas, Ed Clancy and Steven Burke race in the final of the men's team pursuit at the Track Cycling World Championships in Melbourne, Australia
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Two world titles for Yorkshire’s leading track cyclists bodes well for London 2012, but intriguing questions remain to be answered in the coming months.

For starters, how do you get six lightning-quick riders into the four-man team that won the world title in a world record time in Melbourne yesterday?

Ed Clancy has to be a shoo-in, as the Barnsley-born 27-year-old is now a double world champion and an Olympic gold medallist to boot.

It was hard enough having to leave out Ben Swift yesterday as the team pursuiters regained the initiative from Australia in the ‘Ashes of the Track’.

But the Rotherham cyclist has questions of his own to ponder as he reflects on his breakthrough track appearance yesterday, as he won a gold medal in the 15km scratch.

With that discipline now wiped from the Olympic programme, Swift still has to find a race that suits his and the squad’s needs.

He is part of the six-man team pursuit squad and can also ride the omnium, which Clancy will ride this week.

Having taken a sabbatical from the road to concentrate on the track in Olympic year, Swift’s talents may still be required elsewhere.

After Melbourne, Swift will consider whether he can force his way into the team pursuit squad or if he has another Olympic option – including the prospect of supporting Mark Cavendish in the road race.

He said: “I’d love to support Cav. It’s nice to have options if the team pursuit doesn’t happen.”

The performance yesterday by Swift, 24, illustrated his talents.

Having waited patiently in the bunch in the 60-lap race, he pulled off the move of the race, bridging rapidly to the tiring lead duo of Austria’s Andreas Mueller and Italy’s Elia Viviani and then going it alone with a lap to go and holding off the main field as they charged towards the line.

The final margin was only half a bike, but it was an excellently-judged late effort by Swift, who summed up the last couple of laps when he said after the race: “The Austrian guy was on the front so I knew that the Czech guy was on my wheel. So I had to wait, recover and hit him.

“I didn’t want him to come through. I just needed to do my own race and it paid off.”

Clancy was left to revel in the unexpected as Great Britain won gold in the four-man, four-kilometre team pursuit in a world record of three minutes 53.295 seconds.

In beating the time which won gold in Beijing in 2008, the British quartet landed a telling blow on arch rivals Australia four months out from the London Games.

The ebb and flow of the titanic duel with Australia’s Glenn O’Shea, Jack Bobridge, Rohan Dennis and Michael Hepburn, who were 0.106secs behind in 3:53.401, made the victory all the sweeter.

Clancy described himself and Kennaugh as “passengers” in the closing lap and feared defeat as Geraint Thomas dragged them along, but Britain prevailed.

Thomas, part of the Olympic-winning quartet, said: “I am surprised that we broke the world record. It’s a great day.”

Clancy believes Australia remain the favourites, but Thomas reckons Britain can go faster still and a time of 3:50 is possible in August.

The 25-year-old said: “There’s nothing we can do about how fast they’re going to go; we know we’re going to get even faster.

“Like we did in Beijing, I’m sure we’re going to be two or three seconds quicker come London.

“I didn’t think we’d ride that time today,” he added.

“I am surprised that we broke the world record. It was only in the last few days that we thought ‘we’re going to get close to this’.”

It was Britain’s first world title in the event since Manchester in 2008 and was a good omen – the 2004 and 2008 world champions went on to win the Olympics later in the same year.

While Clancy, Swift and the team pursuit squad have choices to make, the sprint teams have work to do.

Jess Varnish and Victoria Pendleton finished without a medal in the two-woman, two-lap team sprint as the world record tumbled.

Varnish and Pendleton’s world record from February’s Track World Cup in London was bettered by Germany in qualifying and Kristina Vogel and Miriam Welte went faster still to win the final in a new best of 32.549, with Australia’s Anna Meares and Kaarle McCulloch taking silver in 32.597.

China’s Gong Jinjie and Guo Shuang (32.870) won the battle for bronze, with Varnish and Pendleton (33.160) having to settle for fourth.

Pendleton said: “Luckily we’ve still got a little bit more time until the Olympics and hopefully we can find a little bit more on home turf.”

The highlight of today’s second day is the three-woman, three-lap team pursuit, with world record holders Joanna Rowsell, Dani King and Laura Trott bidding for Britain’s fourth world title in five years in the event.