FOR the first time since 1998 and the early days of lottery funding, Great Britain’s men are poised to return home from a Track Cycling World Championships without a single medal after a display in Cali which will require plenty of introspection.
Four fifth-placed finishes – by Jason Kenny in the sprint and Keirin, the team sprint trio of Kenny, Phil Hindes and Kian Emadi and Ed Clancy in the omnium – were the best Britain’s men would do, unless Owain Doull and Jon Dibben were able deliver in the Madison, which resembles The Wacky Races and is unpredictable, in the final action in the early hours of this morning. Two years out from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, there is cause for concern.
The depth of disappointment over the performances of the men was felt from day one, when the men’s team pursuit squad of two-times Olympic gold medallist Clancy, Sam Harrison, Dibben and Doull finished eighth in the worst display by a British quartet in over 15 years.
British Cycling head coach Shane Sutton had targeted six medals in the ten Olympic disciplines, five for each gender. But not even the presence of Sir Chris Hoy – the six-times Olympic champion was in Colombia as a team mentor – could rouse the troops.
But laid-back Kenny refuses to be unduly alarmed. “There’s no point worrying about it,” said the 25-year-old from Bolton. “Hopefully, next year we’ll see a bit of a resurgence in the sprint [events], particularly the men’s sprint.
“We’ve got used to winning a lot of medals in the past with Chris [Hoy] and Vicky [Pendleton]. We’ve been quite consistently up there and it will be nice to get back up there.
“I’d like to be consistently winning. My goal isn’t to be world champion or Olympic champion, my goal is to be consistently winning all the time and look back in ten years and be a multiple world champion over those years.
“We’ll plan our training and try to rectify all the issues this year and, hopefully, next year we’ll be back in front.”
The poor men’s displays have been in contrast with the women’s performances in Colombia. Katie Archibald, who won team pursuit gold and placed fourth in the points race on her World Championships debut, said: “The boys have been handling it really well.
“They’re typical lads, you don’t see them crying in a corner. I don’t know what’s going on on the inside but they’re putting on a pretty brave front.”
Defending champion Becky James required a second opportunity to advance to the women’s Keirin semi-finals on the fifth and final day of the Track Cycling World Championships in Cali, Colombia.
James, who won sprint and Keirin gold in Minsk 12 months ago, appeared to win her heat but was relegated for leaving the sprinters’ lane, sending her into the repechage.
Two riders progressed from the second-chance saloon and the 22-year-old from Abergavenny finished behind Anna Meares of Australia to go through.
James’ team-mates Jess Varnish and Vicky Williamson also fell into the repechage heats. Varnish was second to Mexico’s Daniela Gaxiola to join James in the semi-finals, but Williamson finished fifth and was eliminated.
Olympic champion Laura Trott was in silver medal position with two events to go in the women’s omnium, with Sarah Hammer of the United States having a seemingly unassailable seven-point lead.