By Martyn Herman
BERLIN (Reuters) – The Netherlands made a flying start to the UCI world track championships with two gold medals and Germany’s women roared to the team sprint title as records tumbled inside Berlin’s velodrome on Wednesday.
Veteran Kirstin Wild edged the women’s scratch race before the Dutch men’s trio of Roy van den Berg, Harrie Lavreysen and Matthijs outpaced Britain to win the team sprint in 41.225, their second world record ride of the day.
It was a chastening day for Britain and Australia, particularly in the blue riband men’s team pursuit, where Denmark’s quartet twice lowered the world record.
Lasse Hansen, Julius Johansen, Frederik Madsen and Rasmus Pedersen gave a team pursuit masterclass in the qualifying round, obliterating reigning champion’s Australia’s previous world record by a whopping 1.4 seconds.
They went even quicker later, clocking 3:46.203, to set up a gold medal ride-off against New Zealand on Thursday.
Their time was almost four seconds faster than Britain’s winning time, also a world record, at the Rio Olympics — evidence of just how high the bar is being raised ahead of the Tokyo Games where Britain will seek a fourth successive gold.
Ed Clancy, part of Britain’s 2008, 2012 and 2016 winning teams, said Denmark had “moved the goalposts”.
“There’s no doubt about it, this is a golden era for team pursuit,” the 34-year-old Clancy said. “When I was a kid I remember watching the Ozzies do a (3:56) and thought ‘wow, incredible’ now it’s 10 seconds faster.”
Britain will not even medal in the men’s team pursuit, although Australia will ride for bronze on Thursday against an Italian quartet who also fired a warning shot with 3:46.513.
Germany’s Pauline Grabosch and Emma Hinze gave the home fans packed into the subterranean velodrome plenty to cheer as they beat Australian duo Kaarle McCulloch and Stephanie Morton to win the team sprint gold medal.
“It felt like I was flying around and around,” Hinze said. It’s awesome to race in front of the home crowd, in front of family and friends. I’ve never felt that happy after a race.”
It was a poignant moment for the hosts as the team were congratulated after receiving their gold medals by Olympic sprint champion Kristina Vogel who was paralyzed after a training crash in 2018.
The Netherlands were joint top of the medals table last year in Poland with six golds and they are on course for a repeat showing if Wednesday is anything to go by.
Wild showed all her experience in the 40-lap scratch race as she edged out American Jennifer Valente and Portugal’s Maria Martins to claim her seventh rainbow jersey.
Britain’s four-times Olympic champion Laura Kenny, riding the scratch race instead of team pursuit after breaking her shoulder in January, was pipped for a medal in fourth.
Kenny’s husband Jason, Britain’s joint most successful Olympian with six gold medals, had the chance to make amends in the team sprint final. But the Dutch were dynamite.
Having broken the world record in the first round, they smashed it again to beat Britain by 1.2 seconds in the final.
“It was insane,” Lavreysen told Reuters. “We were hoping for the world record but to do it by 0.6 is mad in a sprint event. We are favorites now for Tokyo but all the countries are going quicker and making big steps.”
Jason Kenny took the positives, though, after he, Ryan Owens and Jack Carlin broke the British record en route to silver.
“Really happy. A massive step forward,” he said. “We tend to save our best for the (Olympic) Games.”
The qualifying round for the women’s team pursuit saw Olympic champions Britain edged into second spot by the U.S. for whom road time-trial world champion Chloe Dygert provided the power. The American time of 4:11.2 and Britain’s 4:11.8 were the second and third fastest ever ridden.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Ken Ferris and Ed Osmond)