Olympic champions Great Britain missed out on a medal ride in the men’s team pursuit on day one of the Track Cycling World Championships with a woeful performance last night.
Ed Clancy, twice an Olympic champion in the four-man, four-kilometre event, combined with Sam Harrison, Owain Doull and Jon Dibben to place eighth in the event, clocking four minutes 04.419 seconds.
Britain, silver medallists in 2013, were the 12th of 13 teams to start and were expected to advance comfortably to the medal rides, yet failed dismally to do so.
Defending champions Australia were second fastest in 4mins01.516secs and were due to meet fastest qualifiers Denmark (4:00.176) in the final overnight.
The bronze medal was due to be contested by Russia (4:01.615) and New Zealand (4:02.056).
The World Championships are taking place in Colombia at a track exposed to the elements, with a roof but without walls.
Britain’s preparations were disrupted by wind blowing in rain on Monday, but conditions were dry for the opening event of the competition.
London 2012 gold medallist Steven Burke was not selected for the qualifying ride and the British quartet, chasing a second world title since 2008, failed to fire, consistently lapping slower than the opposition.
Denmark had set a track record in the previous heat and Britain were a lowly sixth through the halfway mark, with plenty of work to do. However, the British squad’s travails continued and Harrison dropped out with 1km to go, leaving his trio of team-mates to forge on alone without reward.
Britain were left hoping for a more fruitful evening session on the opening day. It was due to feature Phil Hindes, Jason Kenny and Kian Emadi in the men’s team sprint, Jess Varnish and Becky James in the corresponding women’s event and Dani King in the women’s 10km scratch race.
The team pursuit squad was depleted and Clancy believes the lack of competition for places contributed to the failure.
Andy Tennant, the 2012 world champion, was not selected following illness and Burke was also hampered by illness and, despite travelling to Cali, did not recover in time to be selected.
“We didn’t announce it on Twitter, but behind the scenes we’ve had some problems,” Clancy said
“We knew a week ago our back was against the wall. [But] despite the fact we didn’t have a couple of our more established riders in the line-up, we were still hoping to get a ride in the final. That’s sport. Some days you go better than you think, other days you don’t go quite so well.
“We have tried a bit of a different approach for these track worlds. Perhaps it just hasn’t paid off.”
Harrison was a late replacement for Burke and struggled. “It’s like a stack of cards – if one part falls down it all comes tumbling down pretty quickly,” Clancy added.
The quartet now focus on individual events, with Clancy in the omnium tomorrow and Saturday. He added: “There wasn’t one of us that was really on fire. We’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. We can still get some medals yet.”
Men’s endurance coach Paul Manning is absent this week as his wife is expecting their second child, and women’s endurance coach Chris Newton has assumed control.
“You can’t magic form,” Newton said. “We had to deal with what we had. We knew everything would have to slot into place on the day and it didn’t.
“As a team we’re disappointed, but we’ll regroup, refocus and move on. We’ll bounce back.”