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LONDON (AFP) — The long-standing rivalry between Australia and Britain continued in thrilling fashion in the track world championships team pursuit final on Thursday as the Australians recorded the second fastest time ever to win gold.
A British team led by former Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins, and roared on by a capacity 8,000-plus crowd at the Olympic velodrome, had to settle for silver against a winning team of Sam Welshford, Michael Hepburn, Callum and Miles Scotson.
“In 17 years of team pursuiting, that is the strongest I have been in a team pursuit so there is a bit of life left in me yet,” he said. “And I have another four or five months left to try to get even stronger.
The Australians built a consistent early lead of between 0.6 and 0.7 seconds but a sterling effort by Ed Clancy, riding his first race since undergoing career-threatening back surgery 12 weeks ago, cut the advantage, and Wiggins drove the hosts into the lead briefly before Clancy tailed off over the last lap.
The winning time of three minutes, 52.727 seconds was 1.1 seconds ahead of Britain and establishes Australia as favorites to win gold in the event in the Rio Olympics. Denmark was third in the consolation round against Italy.
“For sure, we will have to ride three seconds faster than that to win gold in Rio,” said Hepburn. “It’s no secret, you’ve just got to find four guys who can do that. But both teams have proved they’re on their way.
“If you look back over the last few Olympic cycles, whoever won at the worlds won the Olympics. I don’t necessarily believe that, and there’s still a lot of work we’ve got to do.
“But they’ve got guys who have shown they’re in a good position, they’ve got guys who can ride three quick rounds so it’s going to be great at the Olympics — as it always is between GB and Australia.”
Wiggins, 35, was particularly dominant throughout the three rounds of the event and is still aiming to end his glorious career by wining gold in Rio.
“I think it shows my commitment, coming away from the road and putting all that time in the gym and doing all that power work.”