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Australia throw down gauntlet to Great Britain with double gold in Poland

Australia throw down gauntlet to Great Britain with double gold in Poland
© Reuters
The British riders had to settle for silver medals 18 months out from the Tokyo Olympics.

Australia threw down the gauntlet to Great Britain with double team pursuit gold on the second day of the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Poland.

Eighteen months before the Tokyo Olympics, Britain were left with two silver medals and a clear message of how much work lies ahead as the Australian men took almost two seconds out of their own world record in an outstanding ride.

The women's race was much closer, with Katie Archibald, Elinor Barker, Ellie Dickinson and Laura Kenny beaten by just two-tenths of a second, but Australia's lead had been almost a second until they began to split up inside the final two laps.

Performance of the night belonged to Alex Porter, Samuel Welsford, Leigh Howard and Kelland O'Brien, who lit up the Arena Pruszkow track with a time of three minutes 48.012 seconds over the four-kilometre distance, smashing the time they set at the Commonwealth Games last year.

Ed Clancy, Kian Emadi, Ethan Hayter and Charlie Tanfield turned in a highly respectable time of 3:50.81 but trailed Australia throughout.

"We actually rode pretty well, we were only a couple of tenths shy of what we did in Rio with our full Olympic package, but that's just an indication of how good the Australian ride was," three-time Olympic champion Clancy said.

"I held that world record for a decade, from 2008 to 2018 and when it first went I was a bit miffed but the Australians are the best team pursuit team that's ever been put together. There's no doubt about it, they're a talented bunch."

Talented, and young. Howard may be 29, but Welsford is 23, Porter 22 and O'Brien 20. Porter was riding just 10 weeks after breaking a collarbone, six ribs and a vertebra in a crash which also left him with a punctured lung.

And as if a world record was not enough, barely 15 minutes after the team pursuit finish, Welsford jumped back on his bike and delivered gold in the men's scratch race, with Britain's Mark Walls sixth.

Britain may be expecting more to come before Tokyo, but Howard warned that Australia do too.

"We expected to go close to the WR but we definitely didn't expect to beat it by so much," he said.

"I don't think there's any secret, we're a very committed team. There's one very clear target, that's the Olympics and the team pursuit. That's one big reason we keep going faster. I think this is just a stepping stone for us."

Four-time Olympic champion Kenny sought to take the blame for Britain's disappointment in the women's race.

The 26-year-old said she had felt off her game this week after training well in the build-up, even suffering a little sickness on Wednesday, which will provoke concern for her prospects in the omnium on Friday.

"I feel I've let the girls down," she said. "I haven't had the best legs the last couple of days and I feel a lot of responsibility for the time we've been doing.

"I didn't pull nearly the turn lengths I was doing at home so I'm disappointed for that. As a team we rode well, there are still things we can improve on but it's just disappointing on the day. It's heartbreaking to be so close to the win."

Following the frustration suffered alongside Vicky Williamson in the team sprint on Wednesday, Katy Marchant could make it no further than the last 16 of the individual event 24 hours later, leaving her to rue a long winter spent focusing on picking up points towards team sprint qualification for Tokyo.

Jack Carlin could only manage fifth place in the keirin final – won by Dutchman Matthijs Buchli – after getting himself out of position.

"Little mistakes cost me," Carlin said. "When the competition is so tight, the times everyone is producing are so close, one of these little errors is make or break."


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