World Team Pursuit Championship (Australia)
|The Brits push Australia to a hat-trick
Prior to the final of the Team Pursuit, round by round, the GB team yet again showed they were one of the best teams in the world. Using Steve Cummings in the first round in place of Rob Hayles, they did everything they could to ensure they were in the final, and after making it into the ride off for Gold, it was far from an easy win for the Aussies.
The atmosphere around the GB camp prior to the final was different, tense even and you could sense the moment. Chris Boardman was looking at the bikes, notepad and pen in hand, looking busy as was everyone else looking after the riders. The Aussies too were going through a much rehearsed preparation routine in their pen at the other end of the row nearest the track.
The riders lined up and then it was on, the battle for the one Gold that has eluded the GB team for half a decade. Over the speakers in the stadium, Mike Smith, lap by lap, was telling the now screaming audience, of how the battle for the lead was see sawing. As the GB team entered the final K and were starting to slip behind, their coach Simon Jones, 20 or so feet in front of us photographers on the track apron, moved towards his riders, pointing at the line and urging them on.
They were giving it their all, their faces showing the strain of the effort but in the stands the crowd were so noisy in support of the Aussies, that it was impossible to hear Mike Smith sometimes. My personal focus was in trying to get a shot of each team every few seconds as they passed by, giving me little time to look at the score board but silently urging them on and praying it would be their day. It wasn’t.
The words from Rob Hayles a few days ago came flooding back. The time when he described the disappointment he felt the moment he strove for the line searching for a personal Gold, lungs and legs screaming in equal intensity and hearing his rivals gun go off before his. If there was euphoria the nights before when Chris Hoy and Jamie Staff claimed gold, this night, even with silver was one that was filled with utter disappointment.
An hour or so after the event, the riders seemed happy enough once they had time to take it in but I still didn’t know what to say to Bryan Steel when came off the podium after receiving yet another silver medal. On the podium, the camaraderie was clear to see not only between the team members themselves but also between those not on the podium with them. Like Steve Cummings who was there with camera in hand trying to find room amongst the throng of photographers looking to get photos of the podium presentation. Or the team staff in the stands who spend much of their year with these riders preparing for that one moment in the Team Pursuit. Looking in from the outside, it is easy to see that the GB team is a close knit band of athletes and support staff or at least that is the way it appears.
As Bryan Steel came off the podium, I asked him for a few words before he went back to the hotel we were staying at. "I’m obviously very disappointed because we were with them until the last k really. Chris weren’t really going that well but we took it to them and just weren’t good enough on the day". Asked whether the conditions contributed to the slower times this year than they had done previously when really pushed Bryan replied, "I think the conditions were a factor and also we haven’t really done that much training for it here whereas in Stuttgart, it was the highlight of the year where this isn’t."
"We were pleased to do a ’1’ which is only a second slower than we did in Stuttgart."
I asked if with the World Cup in Sydney being so close to the World Championships, was there a touch of tiredness in the team? "Some riders were, some weren’t. I was really tired after the World Cup and had a break and trained later whereas Chris was tired as well and Rob and Paul were alright really. There have been a few sicknesses going around as well and being away from home for a month is a long time. We’re all really looking forward to going home."
So no rainbow stripes for Bryan and the other riders, but a silver medal in an event which seems to be getting more competitive each year. When I put it to him though that a gold in Athens would be recompense for not winning in Melbourne, he replied "it would definitely make up for it. That’s the main aim now. We have a weeks break now with some time at home, and then we can start rebuilding with a warm weather training camp in France and we’ll take it from there really."
Gold medal final
Bronze medal final