A fuming Jess Varnish and Katy Marchant suffered Olympic disappointment before hitting out at British Cycling’s coaches for their failure to reach Rio.
Varnish and Marchant needed to finish two clear places ahead of France in the two-women, two-lap team sprint on the opening day of the Track World Championships in London to secure Britain’s Olympic place.
But the British pair could only finish in fifth place in 32.903 seconds and France were seventh in 33.258secs.
The qualification period concluded in London, and Britain did not accrue enough points to advance, with Varnish and Marchant pointing the finger firmly at their superiors.
“I feel sick,” said Varnish, who was disqualified at the London 2012 Olympics when competing with Victoria Pendleton. “How many more times can I keep putting my life on hold, making these choices for my career, if it’s not going to pay off, through no fault of our own?
“We have been basically playing catch-up through bad decisions and bad luck. There’s been people put out for races, say European Championships last year... it’s great they’ve been given an opportunity to go to major championships and to try to qualify the ‘A team’ a place at Olympic Games, but they’re not there yet. It should not be their job. To have to qualify for the Olympic Games, it should not be a development programme. It should be ‘A team’, ‘A team’, ‘A team’.
“It’s not happened. This is through absolutely no fault of our own. We’re fifth in the world, we’ve beaten so many of the teams, this is the best we’ve ever competed and we’re not going to the Olympics.”
Varnish, who could yet go to Rio in the individual sprint and Keirin, vowed to carry on. She said: “I won’t let people like this make me quit. I started being a cyclist when I was 12 or 13 years old to be Olympic champion. I’m not going to quit.”
Marchant, a former heptathlete, said: “We should never have been in the position that we’re in today. To be able to come out and perform like we did today, under the pressure that we’ve been under, I’m really proud of Jess. I’m proud of myself. But to be sitting here saying we’re not going to the Olympics is heartbreaking.”
British Cycling head coach Iain Dyer insisted the same selection decisions would be made again, if the coaches were faced with the same choices. “I fully understand their disappointment [but] we’ve done the best we can on every possible turn,” Dyer said.
“When we look back on our two-year qualifying period I honestly don’t think that we can consider there would be much we would change.”
Britain’s men remain without a world title in the corresponding three-man, three-lap event since 2005 after placing sixth in qualifying, missing out on a medal ride.
Olympic champions Phil Hindes and Jason Kenny made a fine start, but Callum Skinner simply could not keep pace as the hosts finished in 43.507.
Hindes, a specialist starter, clocked a personal best for the opening lap of 17.030 – the fastest time at sea level – and Kenny was the sixth-fastest man two to leave Britain first after two laps, but Glaswegian Skinner’s struggles led to a sixth-placed finish overall.
There was positive news in the first event of the day as Sir Bradley Wiggins and Britain qualified fastest in the men’s team pursuit.
Wiggins, riding in his first Track World Championships since 2008, combined with London 2012 gold medallist Steven Burke, Jonathan Dibben and Owain Doull to clock three minutes 55.664 seconds and advance in first place to today’s semi-finals. They will face Italy for a place in the final.