French sprinter Gregory Bauge is at a loss to explain Britain’s cyclists’ domination of the London Velodrome.
“I don’t know,” Bauge said. “If I knew, I would tell you.”
Bauge was routed in consecutive races on Monday by Britain’s Jason Kenny, who secured another gold medal in the men’s sprint. It was the fifth gold for the hosts at the London Velodrome and put Britain in a position to surpass the seven golds they won at the Beijing Games.
Victoria Pendleton is favored in the women’s sprint and Chris Hoy in the keirin when the track program concludes. Their teammate Laura Trott was tied for the lead with Sarah Hammer of the US at the midway point of the six-event women’s omnium.
“It’s not like we’re winning by miles and miles,” Kenny said with a shake of his head.
It just seems like it.
Britain has even factored into the races they have not won — Ed Clancy delivered bronze in the men’s omnium behind gold medalist Lasse Norman Hansen of Denmark, while the sprint duo of Pendleton and Jessica Varnish were headed for the medal round when they were relegated for an illegal changeover.
“Team morale goes a long way,” Kenny said. “Once we’ve won that first one or two golds, everybody wants to get on the bandwagon and everyone has the legs to do it.”
French track cycling director Isabelle Gautheron is impressed, particularly the way the team has been breaking world records along the way.
Of the 10 set at the velodrome, eight have been by British riders.
“I wish I could explain it. If I had the solution, we wouldn’t be so far behind. We are all very far behind,” Gautheron said. “They’ve prepared very well for the Games during the last four years, when they didn’t dominate. They’ve also got the support of the public. They have invested a lot on the equipment and on the preparation. They’re really good.”
Kenny’s first career victory over Bauge, the reigning world champion, allowed Britain to equal Italy with 22 gold medals in track cycling. Only France has more with 28.
“I can’t explain why the British team is so strong,” said Florian Rousseau, a three-time Olympic gold medalist for France. “It’s maybe because there are only the Olympics which matter to them, but we have to have the same approach.”
One feat the British will not be able to replicate is their 12 medals from Beijing.
New rules put in place for the London Games limit each nation to one rider or team per event, so it is now impossible for Britain to exceed 10 medals. On four occasions in Beijing, the deepest and most talented program in track cycling put more than one rider on the podium.
Trott has the first chance to add to the medal haul.
A member of the gold medal-winning British pursuit team, she won the 250m flying start and the elimination race to begin the six-discipline omnium, but she only managed to finish 10th in the points race, leaving her tied with Hammer with three events to go.
“To be leading coming into the second day is a great position to be in, but anything can happen,” Hammer said. “That’s the nature of the omnium: One race at a time.”
Pendleton could give Britain their next chance at gold.
She did not toy around with Olga Panarina of Belarus in the women’s sprint quarter-finals on Monday, easily winning the first race and then using an explosive kick to win the second.
The reigning Olympic gold medalist remained in position for a showdown on the boards with her Australian rival Anna Meares. It was Meares who ended Pendleton’s run of four straight world titles last year and who Pendleton eliminated in the semi-finals in May to regain her championship.