Cycling: Fine silver and surprise bronze for GB

Great Britain completed the opening day of the first Track Cycling World Championships on the road to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics with a satisfactory silver medal and a surprise bronze.

After Becky James and Vicky Williamson, making her senior World Championships debut, finished third in the women’s team sprint, silver was claimed in the men’s team pursuit, an event in which Britain won world and Olympic gold in 2012.

Two of the London Olympic-winning quartet – Ed Clancy and Steven Burke – were in the squad which lost the world champion rainbow jerseys to Australia.

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Clancy, Burke, 2012 world champion Andy Tennant and Sam Harrison, who won world bronze in 2011, qualified second fastest and were unable to overturn their seeding, finishing in four minutes 00.967 seconds, to their rivals’ 3mins 56.751secs.

Australia led throughout the 16-lap final, even though Glenn O’Shea dropped out entering the final kilometre, leaving Alex Edmondson, Michael Hepburn and Alex Morgan to hold off Britain in the finale.

Clancy, who experimented with the team sprint earlier this winter before reverting to his usual discipline, said: “It does hurt to lose to the Aussies, but it’s an Olympic programme. It’s bike racing, you can’t win all the time. It’s disappointing but, if you don’t look at it so black and white, there’s a lot of positives.”

“If you look at where we were in Poland, we’ve done a hell of a lot better than we did there.”

Williamson, 19, was a late replacement for Jess Varnish, who has a back injury, while James was fulfilling second-lap duties previously occupied by the now-retired Victoria Pendleton.

Sprint coach Iain Dyer says 21-year-old James, who pushed Olympic champion Anna Meares close for Commonwealth gold in 2010, is in the form of her life.

As if to prove it, she allowed a gap to open up by going up the banking coming into the changeover to allow her to accelerate into her lap. The technique was devised in the last session of the Newport training camp ahead of travelling to Minsk.

James, who made up deficits in each of her rides, said: “We just thought we’d try something new and, because my form’s come through quite nicely, we wanted to get as much speed as possible off the lap. I’m absolutely buzzing. I’m so shocked. I can’t believe it, my first world medal.”

James will now ride in the 500 metres time-trial tomorrow, the first of three individual events in which she is targeting further success.

Kian Emadi competed in the corresponding men’s event, the one-kilometre time-trial, placing an impressive fourth in 1:01.756, with Francois Pervis of France winning in 1:00.221. The 20-year-old Emadi will ride in the men’s team sprint on day two today alongside Philip Hindes and Jason Kenny, taking Sir Chris Hoy’s man three slot.

Three more events take place tomorrow, including the women’s team pursuit, featuring Olympic champions Laura Trott and Dani King, with Elinor Barker making up the trio.