Team GB’s velodrome dominance is under attack as Laura Kenny and Co’s pursuit world record is smashed and men’s quartet face tough task to beat flying Denmark squad in Tokyo
Laura Kenny faces a fight to maintain her perfect Olympic record after Team GB were served an early reminder that the velodrome may not be the medal factory it once was.
The 29-year-old is Britain’s most successful female Olympian having won four golds from the four events she has entered.
That record is on the line on Tuesday in the women’s team pursuit, where the British quartet will have to battle like never before to defend a title they have won at the last two Games.
Team GB need to find an extra gear on Tuesday as they face still competition for their golds
The German squad smashed the women’s team pursuit record set by GB at the Rio Games
Kenny, Katie Archibald, Elinor Barker and Josie Knight came through qualifying second fastest on Monday to set up a showdown with the USA.
But should they get past America, surprise package Germany would likely lie in wait — and their qualifying time was 1.715sec faster than Team GB’s, whose world record they obliterated.
The men’s team, meanwhile, finished fourth fastest and must somehow now beat world-record holders Denmark to have any hope of keeping their dream of winning four straight golds alive.
British Cycling had warned that their days of domination in the velodrome were over. What we now know is that the rest of the world has caught up.
The men’s quartet won their third-straight title in 2016 but only qualified fourth on Monday
They face a rapid Danish team in the semi-finals of the team pursuit on Tuesday morning
For the pace-setters to include Germany, however, stunned everyone including British rider Barker, who said: ‘We knew the world record was going to be broken but we fully expected it to be the Australians or the Americans.
‘For it to happen when we weren’t looking meant we didn’t need to worry too much. The worst had happened.’
Germany’s time of 4min 7.307sec was almost three seconds faster than the one Team GB set when they won in Rio. But asked if they can bridge the gap, Barker replied: ‘I hope so. It’s possible.’
Even if Britain cling on to their crown in the women’s event, their hopes of defending the men’s title they have won at the last three Games hang by a thread.
They snuck through fourth fastest and only once fifth-placed Australia had ridden for a second time, their first attempt having being aborted after Alex Porter crashed when his handlebars snapped.
But Denmark are the new force in men’s team pursuit and they broke Team GB’s Olympic record from Rio with a time of 3min 45.014sec, less than half a second outside their world record.
Great Britain are a mix of riders with veteran Ed Clancy alongside 20-year-old Ethan Vernon
If Britain lose to the Danes in what is effectively a semi-final, the best they can hope for is a shot at bronze by clocking one of the two fastest times of the six teams not in the final.
Team GB’s time of 3min 47.507sec was still a national record and almost three seconds faster than they went in the final five years ago. But three-time gold medallist Ed Clancy, 36, admitted: ‘That time is all right but we have done that in training. It would have been good a few years back but the game has moved on.
‘What’s that down to? Gear choice. Training appropriately. Rider physiology. And the whole world is wise to that now. Everyone’s going fast.’
It remains to be seen if Team GB can go faster.