GB win gold set world record, Kiwis bronze
Sat, 04 Aug 2012 5:50a.m.
The British men's pursuit team won its second straight Olympic gold medal Friday, shattering the world record it had set the previous day.
The team of Edward Clancy, Geraint Thomas, Steven Burke and Peter Kennaugh tore over the pine wood of the London Velodrome to finish in 3 minutes, 51.659 seconds, lowering the mark of 3:52.499 that they had set during the qualifying round by nearly a second.
The Australian team of Jack Bobridge, Glenn O'Shea, Rohan Dennis and Michael Hepburn finished in 3:54.581 to claim the silver medal, and New Zealand beat Russia for the bronze.
New Zealand got the a chance to win an Olympic bronze medal in the men's cycling team pursuit after a gutsy semi-final ride.
Riding against Australia, New Zealand were behind most of the way but kept the margin inside half a second to the 2500m mark.
But they started to lose ground when they lost Marc Ryan soon after and though Australia also lost a rider shortly afterwards, Aaron Gate had trouble staying with his teammates for the last 400m.
They made it to the line in 3 minutes 56.442 seconds, about 0.8 seconds ahead of fourth qualifiers Russia. They then went on to beat the Russian's in the ride off for the medal.
But it was all about Britain - the first team to defend the Olympic team pursuit title since West Germany in 1976.
The home team was carried along by a raucous crowd that included Team USA basketball star Kobe Bryant and some guy named "Wiggo" - that would be Bradley Wiggins, the Tour de France champion who won the Olympic time trial gold medal at Hampton Court Palace.
Wiggins was roaring his approval with the rest of the 6,000 fans jammed into the velodrome, and for good reason: He was part of the British pursuit team that won gold in Beijing.
His former mates seem to be doing just fine without him.
The team pursuit, in which teams of four race over 4 kilometers in an aerodynamic formation, started on Thursday, when the British team established a new world record. The time was nearly three seconds faster than Australia and more than five seconds better than New Zealand.
"All we've done here is state our intent," British coach Dan Hunt said afterward. "I think we can go quicker."
His premonition proved to be accurate.
The British team posted a time of 3:52.743 in its heat race - for most of the final lap, it appeared as if it would set another world record. That earned it the opportunity to race for gold against Australia, which advanced to the final with a time of 3:54.317 in its heat.
In the final, the British team led by three-tenths of a second after the first thousand metres, and more than half a second by the midway point, the blur of its blue kits shuffling effortlessly from the front to the back to keep fresh legs pulling the foursome along.
The team crossed the finish line together to a thunderous ovation.
Thomas and Clancy have been around for a while, joining with a variety of teammates over the years to win three world championships. But the newcomers Kennaugh and Burke showed that they had every bit the meddle of Wiggins and the retired Paul Manning to win Olympic gold.
Kennaugh in particular was cheered on by road cyclist Mark Cavendish, perched above the track doing television commentary. The two riders are both from the Isle of Man, in the Irish Sea between Britain and Ireland, and only has a population of about 85,000.
After a slow start to the London Games, the British cycling team has done just about everything is could to help the host nation climb the medal table.
Elizabeth Armitstead won silver in the women's road race last weekend, and Chris Hoy, Philip Hindes and Jason Kenny started off the track cycling program with team sprint gold Thursday.
After the men's pursuit team added another gold, it was Victoria Pendleton's turn to shine.
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