Olympic champion Victoria Pendleton and Jess Varnish inspired Britain to two world record-winning performances on Friday as Britain underscored their gold winning potential at the London velodrome.
However, on the second day of the World Cup meeting, which doubles as an Olympic test event, the Olympics kings from Beijing were given plenty of food for thought ahead of this summer’s Games.
After earlier seeing Australian pair Anna Meares and Kaarle McCulloch improve their own world record by clocking 32.828 seconds for the two-lap event, Pendleton and Varnish rose to the challenge in the final to set an improved mark of 32.754 seconds.
This London Olympics will be Pendleton’s last and the Englishwoman — who is set to compete in the individual and team event in August — was in bullish mood.
“We were pleased this morning, so I can’t even explain to you how good it feels to have the world record. The Australians took it for a while, then we took it back,” Pendleton said.
Meares will be among the biggest threats to Pendleton’s Olympic title in the individual sprint in London, having beaten the Englishwoman to the world title for the first time this year.
Racing alongside McCulloch, gold medal expectations will also be high in the team sprint, which this year will join the keirin and the individual sprint on the women’s five-race Olympic program.
Despite having to settle for team sprint silver on Friday, Meares and McCulloch — the three-time defending world champions — promise to redress the balance at the world championships in Melbourne in April.
“We would have loved to have won here, it’s just not happened, but what we can take from this is riding in front of a very large British crowd, against the British team and we can go from strength to strength,” Meares said.
“At the end of the day it’s about Anna and I putting the best performance we can out on the track and we did that tonight,” McCulloch added. “But you know what? This is only a stepping stone for us. We’ll be better at the worlds and we’ll be better in London, you can bet your bottom dollar on it.”
Australia’s women were celebrating for the second time when their pursuit trio of Josephine Tomic, Amy Cure and Annette Edmondson beat the US’s world record of 3 minutes, 19.569 seconds on their way to bronze in 3 minutes, 19.164 seconds.
Minutes later, Britain’s Laura Trott, Danielle King and Joanna Rowsell showed impressive form over 12 laps to win the event and regain their world record in 3 minutes, 18.148 seconds.
“We knew it was on,” Rowsell said. “From training we’ve been riding above world record pace for the last few training sessions. We knew it was in the tank. We’re really pleased we’ve got that world record back.”
Meanwhile, world champions Germany put their Olympic gold winning credentials on display by outclassing the French in the men’s team sprint final.
Frenchman Kevin Sireau, who is battling compatriot Gregory Bauge for the sole individual sprint spot, said their team was buoyed by their first ride together since winning the world title last year.
“The Germans have been working at this event all season and we haven’t so it’s a pretty good sign for us finishing second on the podium,” Sireau said.
Olympic champions in the event, Britain had to settle for third after finishing only fourth in qualifying. Sir Chris Hoy, who also won sprint and keirin gold in Beijing, said their plans to defend their Olympic title were well on track.