Australian men’s team pursuit beats Britain to win world title

Australia overhauled Britain on the final lap to win the men’s team pursuit at the track cycling world championships on Thursday.

Australia went out quickly but the hosts – including returning seven-time Olympic medalist Bradley Wiggins – took the lead with two and a half laps remaining and were ahead going into the last 250 meters at Lee Valley VeloPark.

But Australia hit back to take the gold medal in a national record of 3 minutes, 52.727 seconds, the second fastest in history.

“That is the sixth rainbow jersey for me, and I’m sure it’s the most special,” Australian rider Michael Hepburn said. “We just stuck to our plan, and rode the times we wanted to ride coming into the final, where they probably laid it down a little bit more.

“What got us across the line tonight was six solid guys, no superheroes, and getting the best out of each other. The boys were super hungry, and I just told them before I went out we are on the verge of doing something magical, and they didn’t let the pressure get to them.”

Hepburn believed a sub 3:50 will be needed to win the Olympic title in Rio de Janeiro.

The result meant Britain ended the second night with a medal of each color, though it’s still considered to be enduring a poor start to the championships, continuing a lean run in recent years.

The last time Wiggins competed at a track worlds was in 2008, when he came away with three titles.

“It’s mixed emotions,” Wiggins said. “Initially, you’re gutted – I am especially – and you try to put a brave face on, be sportsmanlike and say congratulations. I said it was going to take a (three minutes) 52 (seconds) or world record to win here. Hats off to them. They’re missing two strong riders from that team.

“It’s really disappointing (for us). But at the same time, when we look where we come from, we’re close.”

Hepburn paid tribute to Wiggins.

“It is fantastic to have someone like Bradley back riding the boards, bringing the limelight to the track again,” he said. The versatility of a rider like that … he has shown that he is on some seriously hot form. I feel really honored to go against someone like that, I am just enjoying this moment.”

Kristina Vogel of Germany won the women’s keirin, hitting the front after the exit of the derny to leave the remainder of the field to jostle behind her.

Defending champion Anna Meares of Australia was second, clinching the 26th world medal of her career, and Becky James of Britain third.

“I knew when I had my wheel free and I could just go forward there would be a medal,” Vogel said. “I have special memories here, winning the Olympic (team sprint) gold medal, so to come back and win a jersey it’s amazing. My skin is crawling.”

Laura Trott won Britain’s first medal of the championships with gold in the scratch race.

Trott executed a tactically superb race, holding off defending champion Kirsten Wild of the Netherlands in the home straight.

“I know it’s not an Olympic event but it means a lot to me, because last year in Paris that was the event that let me down,” Trott said.

Trott was part of the British women’s team pursuit which qualified fifth on Thursday and can ride only for a bronze on Friday, a comedown after six golds and two silvers in the previous eight worlds.

“The thing is with the team pursuit, unless you race on the limit, you don’t know what your limit is,” Trott said. “It was disappointing we found what the limit was at a world championships. We can still race for the bronze medal and we can still put out a decent time.”

Joachim Eilers won the one kilometer time trial, setting a new velodrome record of 1:00.042 to upgrade his silver from 2015.