Olympic Games Team Pursuit (Athens)
Silver Medal for Great Britain in Major Battle on Olympic Velodrome
First Round -- British record for GB, World Record for Aussies
In the round to decide who goes for Gold and Silver, Great Britain (Steve Cummings, Bradley Wiggins, Paul Manning, Chris Newton) went under the 4 minute barrier for the first time to ensure they get a shot at the Gold medal that has eluded them for many years. With Bryan Steel being rested, Bradley Wiggins was brought in and the four riders were in great form, setting some incrediable times all the way to catching France and onto the line when they recorded 3.59.866.
Afterwards talking to PA Sports, Chris Newton who also has a big date with the Points race tomorrow (Tuesday), said "We’re not going in the final thinking we’ve got a silver medal. We’re going out there to fight for a gold” with national coach Simon Jones adding "We’ve got six competitive riders because we want to push the Aussies. We know they’re favourites but we want to get up there and be competitive.” With Jones adding “I know we can go as fast as them”.
Despite TV reports that Bryan Steel was not well, in talking to the GB camp in Athens, we were told everything is fine with all the riders in the squad and the four chosen for today's (Monday) final will be selected as per the rules with the team announcement being made an hour before the start. There will be no rush choices as all the splits are looked at and the recovery factor also taken into acccount. Those thinking its a straight forward decision, should perhaps slow down and think again. There s four years of hard work on the line today and I like many, know just how hungry all these guys are for gold.
For those wondering about Rob Hayles, he was at the track today, there as a reserve if needed but in the end, the four chosen to take GB into the final, did so with an awesome ride and we look forward to a cracking final tomorrow. Special credit to Steve Cummings, the youngest rider in the team who went the distance with his illustrious teammates and for many, came of age as a fully fledged member of the Team Pursuit as they broke the National Record.
"We should be better tomorrow," Jones is reported by the Guardian. "We have been faster over two kilometres at Newport than they were here and after that it's down to blind passion and ignorance" with Jones adding according to the Times, “and by that, I mean ignorance of pain. We have to be the best we can be. I want the perfect team pursuit.”
And perfect it will have to be after the performance of the Aussie squad saw the team lower the World Record close (3.56) to the mark that Jones has long thought the record would be taken to Olympic Gold... 3.55. For their first round ride, Australia brought in both their big hitters, Bradley McGee and Luke Roberts and proceeded to demolish the World record which the Aussies had already held, by over a second (3.56.342).
It set up the expected final between Australia and Great Britain whilst the bronze will be fought out between Spain and Germany. McGee talking afterwards is reported to say "It's been a long time since I rode with the guys and things have really changed. They are all so professional and strong. I enjoy this so much. We have improved four seconds on our ride this morning and we will make sure that we win gold tomorrow." On the importance of a gold medal in tomorrow's final: "It will be my first gold medal. But for me personally the individual events count. But for me as an Australian the team pursuit is the most important."
Great Britain Australia
Great Britain with Steven Cummings, Paul Manning, Chris Newton and Bryan Steel were the second fastest qualifiers in the Team Pursuit today. The team were off second last, and from the top of the track there was Steven Cummings, Bryan Steel, Chris Newton and then in the gate, Paul Manning, the British Pursuit champion. As sweat run down the face of Bryan Steel, the riders on double discs signalling that the wind was not going to be a problem in the velodrome readied themselves for the start the way they have many many times in the last four years.
With a wealth of expereince in the team, this was Bryan Steels fourth Olympics, and all but Cummings were bronze medalists in Sydney 2000, the riders got away to a good start.With only inches between the wheels, the riders who riding tight but not too tight as each rider took a turn at the front with no sign of fatigue showing in their faces despite the face pace which was around three to four seconds fastester than the pace set in qualifying for the worlds.
With Australian commentor Garry Sutton saying the Brits had a good technique, the team went through the first kilometre 4th fastest and then settled down to a pace which saw them recording the second fastest kilometre splits from then on. After crossing the line, Paul Manning leading them across from Chris Newton, Steven Cummings and Bryan Steel, the team went to the top of the leaderboard for a short time.
The final team off, World Champions Australia, went quicker again in the final heat to go fastest. As such, GB will now meet France in the next round in which its vital they record either the fastest or second fastest time in order to go go through to the final for the Gold medal.
WORLD RECORD: 3:57.280 Australia (Stuttgart 2003)
1. Australia 4:00.613
2. Great Britain 4:03.985
3. SPAIN 4:04.421
4. Germany 4:05.823
5. Holland 4:06.286
6. Ukraine 4:07.175
7. France 4:07.336
8. Lithunia 4:08.812
9. Russia 4:09.394
Great Britain Team Splits
Final, Great Britain versus Australia
This was to be the final to end all finals but in the end, the Aussies were yet again just too strong for the British. If the battle between Wiggins and McGee was hyped up then this was one battle, that on paper at least, was destined to top that. Since the last Olympics, Australia has dominated the Team Pursuit along with Great Britain but the Aussies have always managed to get to the line first and claim Gold whereas Great Britain have more silvers than they care to remember from the last four years.
The 2004 Olympics though looked like being a very different story. On paper, we had the better individual pursuiters as results over the last few years including this Olympics prove but put the Aussies in a team together and they seem to have the edge on the Brits every time.
Both teams had all their top riders there and Great Britain had prepared well, not only having two of the best pursuiters in the World (Wiggins and Hayles) but also another in Paul Manning (4th in the 2003 Worlds Pursuit) along with the other members of the Team Pursuit squad who all have vast experience.
So the scene was set and out on the Olympic track came the four riders chosen to try and do what no other team had done for the last four years, and that was beat the Aussies!. I like many, really thought this was going to be GB's day.
The four riders chosen to do the deed were Steven Cummings, Bradley Wiggins, Rob Hayles and Paul Manning. Watching the TV coverage, Bryan Steel was track centre, dressed in civies for probably the first time in his career at the final of a Team Pursuit match. The Olympics was to be his retirement party to end all parties but it wasn't to work out as expected. On the subject of team selection, expert advisor to the Great Britain team, Chris Boardman said that there was nothing between the splits of all the riders prior to the final and everyone would have contributed equally given the chance. But after having competed in four Olympics, it must have been a terribly hard decision to leave out a rider who has been the lynch pin for the team for so long --Bryan Steel.
Perhaps it was the choice of gearing to use that Cummings got the nod. Whatever the reasons for the riders chosen, the pressure as favourites was all on the shoulders of the Australian World Champions whereas the only pressure the Brits felt was the hunger for a gold that had eluded them for too long. This was to be an all out attempt on Gold – no playing safe on this one.
When the two teams assembled on the track, the Brits in the back straight, the Aussies in the home straight, the tension could almost be cut with a knife as the clock in that familiar tone it has, counted the seconds down in a stadium buzzing with anticipation. Both sets of bikes were equipped with disc/five spoke wheels, an indication of the wind that must have been about in this Olympic velodrome. The crowd knew they were going to witness something special and so they did.
Both teams got away well, GB lead by Paul Manning, and lap by lap, it was the Aussies who took an early lead, riding at a pace that was up on World Record times. Perhaps it was because the Australians knew the territory of World Record pace better than the Brits that had them soon edging away, lap by lap. Half a second became a second, then one and half and then two seconds. This wasn't about tactics now as it had been in the previous rounds -- this was about an all out race to win the biggest prize that sport can offer a nation. What was expected to be a monumental battle, as the Melbourne World Championship was between these two countries, didn't quite work out like that and the fight back from the GB team expected in the second half never happened and there was only ever going to be one victor on this day -- Australia. They were the Olympic Champions!
1. Australia 3.58.233 (60.445 km/h)
2. Great Britain 4.01.760 (59.563)
3. Spain 4.05.523 (58.650 km/h)
4. Germany 4.07.193
Bryan Steel and Chris Newton to Receive Olympic Silver Medals
In speaking to Great Britain's Bryan Steel yesterday (Friday), he confirmed what was already being said on the BBC and elsewhere -- both Bryan Steel and Chris Newton will get their Silver medals for the Olympic Team Pursuit. During the Olympics, both riders rode for GB in the early rounds of the Team Pursuit but were not selected for the final as fresh riders were brought in to try and snatch the Gold from the Australians.
Unfortunately for Team GB, there were unable to win the gold but unlike in swimming and athletics where all those in the squad who compete get medals, in cycling, only those who rode in the final were presented on TV with their medals. And that went for the two Australians who missed the final.
Speaking to the Rugby Advertiser, the local paper for the town where Bryan now lives with his wife Dawn, and a paper which has printed a number of features on the local Olympian, Bryan said "when all six riders are absolutely flying, somebody has got to be disappointed and unfortunately it was me. I'm glad to be here, glad to be part of the team and glad that I did my job in the early rounds. It's been quite emotional as its the culmination of a lot of years work, but I'm happy".
Having already returned home, Bryan is not sure when and how the Silver medal is to be presented although he did admit to us that it wasn't so much the pomp and ceremony he was after, just the medal! One option may be a presentation at the end of the Tour of Britain stage into Nottingham where Bryan will be guest of honour. The other is that they post it to him asap!
The medals were awarded after the BOA on behalf of Team GB team made an appeal to the International Olympic Committee. "I can happily report that Chris and Bryan will now receive the silver medals that their efforts deserve" said the British Olympic Association's chef de mission Simon Clegg to the BBC. For Bryan, it's the last medal he expects to get riding for GB as he retires from competition this year and he said although nothing is planned for the future, its quite an exciting time after being a world class cyclist for 20 years, to have a new challenge. Retirement for Bryan has actually come later than he expected because he was due to retire after the Sydney Olympics, but admits to Zoe at the Rugby Advertiser "I am very glad I didn't retire after Sydney. I won a bronze there but I've won five World Championship medals since then and been part of a great team. I've absolutely no regrets."
On behalf of everyone in cycling, we'd like to thank Bryan for the success he has helped to bring us over the last 20 years, going back I understand to Barcelona in 1992, and even before that Bryan was part of Team GB. Quite simply, as one of the riders from the team said publicly in the press recently, 'Bryan is a legend' and so its quite fitting that such an integral part of the team walks away with a medal as a tribute to a great career for Great Britain... thanks Bryan!