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GB's Ed Clancy embracing underdog tag in Tokyo

Ed Clancy has been part of three gold medal-winning team pursuit squads.

Triple Olympic champion Ed Clancy is embracing the role of underdog heading into the Tokyo Games as he admits the rest of the world has caught up with British Cycling's 'marginal gains'.

Clancy, 36, has been part of the team pursuit squads that took gold in Beijing, London and Rio but the odds are against a fourth title this summer with Britain having been well beaten in competition prior to the pandemic.

At last year's world championships in Berlin, Denmark broke the world record three times on their way to gold while the British quartet finished down in fifth, almost six seconds off the pace, despite setting their own fastest ever time during the course of the competition.

UCI Track Cycling World Championships 2020 – Day Two – Velodrom
Denmark are the team to beat after breaking the world record three times at last year's World Championships (Tim Goode/PA)

The attention to detail, technological innovation and strategy that once emanated from Britain's 'Secret Squirrel Club' and 'Room X' used to help set them apart, but so much of the process is now second nature to their opponents as well.

"We were first to the party with a lot of this stuff but that's going back a long time, over a decade ago" Clancy said.

"Every team has good knowledge and good awareness of how to go fast on a bike these days."

Clancy took gold in Beijing alongside Bradley Wiggins, Paul Manning and a young Geraint Thomas, but said the sport is in a very different place 13 years on.

Olympics – Beijing Olympic Games 2008 – Day Ten
Clancy, second left, won the first of his three Olympic titles alongside Wiggins, Thomas and Manning in 2008 (John Giles/PA)

"I almost look back and laugh when I think about what gear choices we had, even in Beijing where we ran a much bigger gear than everybody else," he said.

"The whole marginal gains thing, the use of the wind tunnel, looking closely at the rider line-up – I believe we were the first to really look at each individual role in the team.

"But others have caught up on to that and superseded what we were doing."

Denmark, aided by former Great Britain rider and Formula One aerodynamicist Dan Bigham, have marked themselves out as the team to beat while a British squad made up of Clancy, Ethan Hayter, Ethan Vernon, Matt Walls and Ollie Wood are left facing a fight to get on the podium.

"I'm happy about it," Clancy said. "When we went to Beijing, though it was a long time ago and we were youngsters, it still felt like we were the ones expected to win. It was the same in London and to a lesser extent in Rio.

"I think this time we don't have that pressure and I'm happy about it. I think we are underdogs – it's fair to call us that. We ended up fifth in the worlds a year-and-a-half ago and arguably we were somewhat fortunate to end up with that.

"The people that turn the TV on once every four years will no doubt be expecting us to go ahead and be right at the very, very sharp end, but I think for everyone else we have no expectations.

"We can only do well, turn things around and do a good job so I'm happy about that, it feels good."

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Olympic medal table header
CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
United StatesUnited States22251764
Olympics flagOlympic Athletes from Russia12211750
Great BritainGreat Britain11121235
Today's Olympic highlights header

Tuesday's key events

· Team GB duo Jack Laugher - silver medallist in Rio - and James Heatly take part in the men's 3m springboard semi-final (2am), and will hope to qualify for the final later in the day (7am)

· Two Britons are involved in the women's long jump final, but Abigail Irozuru and Jazmin Sawyers have their work cut out to get a spot on the podium (2.50am)
· Norwegian Karsten Warholm, who broke the world record just last month, goes for gold in the men's 400m hurdles final. USA's Rai Benjamin is expected to be his main challenger (4.20am)
· Great Britain have three representatives in the final of the women's 800m, with Jemma Reekie having perhaps the best chance of a medal (1.25pm)
· A mouth-watering women's 200m final sees Elaine Thompson-Herah go for the prestigious sprint double after claiming the 100m crown. Compatriot Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Namibia's Christine Mboma and USA's Gabrielle Thomas are expected to be her main competitors (1.50pm)

· The rescheduled women's skiff 49er FX (4.33am) and men's skiff 49er (5.33am) come to their conclusion, with Team GB involved in both medal races
· Defending champion Giles Scott bids for a second successive gold in the Finn class medal race (6.33am)
· There is another medal chance for Team GB in the mixed Nacra 17 medal race (7.33am)

· Team GB's Joe Fraser takes part in the parallel bars final, kicking off the final day of artistic gymnastics (9am)
· USA superstar Simone Biles, who has been forced to pull out of all of her finals so far, is on the starting list for the beam final as she bids for a fifth Olympic gold (9.50am)

· The men's semi-finals take place, with Mexico taking on Brazil first up (9am)
· The winner of that first semi-final will face either hosts Japan or Spain (2pm)

· Laura Kenny will look to win a third straight Olympic team pursuit gold medal. Team GB take on United States in their heat (7.44am), with the gold medal race later that day (9.26am)
· Laura's husband and fellow Olympic legend Jason Kenny will also look to continue his huge success in the men's team sprint - an event he has won gold in at every Games since 2008. Team GB will first need to get through the men's qualifying (7.58am), with the gold medal race ending the session (9.44am)

· Pat McCormack will be looking to achieve his dream of Olympic gold when he faces Cuba's Roniel Iglesias (11.05am)

> Today's schedule in full
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