RECORDS tumbled again as Britain humbled their rivals with poster girl Victoria Pendleton capping another remarkable track cycling day for the hosts at the London Olympics in a simmering velodrome on Friday.
Britain won the two gold medals on offer as the men retained their team pursuit title in world record time before Pendleton gave her rivals no chance in the adrenaline-filled keirin.
Earlier, Britain’s women laid down a marker in the team pursuit qualifying session by beating their own world record.
Four years ago, Britain had claimed seven out of the 10 possible titles. Now backed by an ecstatic capacity crowd, they look to be in a position to repeat the feat with three titles already in the bag.
“Vicky deserves a special mention because what she’s done is nothing short of sensational really, she’s worked extremely hard,” Britain’s director of performance David Brailsford said.
“She’s been willing to lose to get better so she’s gone to World Cups, she’s gone to world championships in heavy phases of training with a long term plan of how to put all this conditioning together.
“It comes all together right at the last minute and it’s when you see the full benefits of all the years of work.”
Pendleton, who came to cycling under pressure from her father, waved at the crowd draped in a Union flag barely holding back the tears.
“It’s the best moment of my career so far. I had a bad year in 2011 and a lot of people wrote me off and I wanted to prove them wrong,” she said.
She was not the first to be greeted by the crowd, however, as Tour de France champion and Britain’s most decorated Olympian Bradley Wiggins, sporting a burgundy Fred Perry jacket over a white polo shirt, paid the velodrome a visit to support his former pursuit team-mates.
The jacket was off quickly as the temperature soared in “the pringle” when Ed Clancy, Geraint Thomas, Steven Burke and Peter Kennaugh lined up for their final against Australia after New Zealand had beaten Russia for bronze.
They took an early lead but Australia seemed back in the contest after 1,500m, only for the Britons to hammer their rivals in the last two kilometres to slash almost one second from the world record they had set the previous day.
“Seeing your fellow Brits do so well inspires you and you want a piece of that,” said Thomas, who won the title in Beijing with Wiggins, his Sky team-mate.
“Seeing Bradley win the Tour and then the time trial inspired us and we wanted a part of that and it shows how good the squad is.
“There were a lot of people doubting us after Beijing and that has spurred us on even more.”
While the team pursuit’s victory was on the cards long before the Games, Pendleton’s keirin success was not so predictable as Australian arch rival Anna Meares came into the event having dominated at the world championships.
Pendleton, who with Jessica Varnish was disqualified from the team sprint on Thursday for an illegal changeover, won her qualifying races in impressive fashion.
In the final, she produced an incredible amount of power again to leapfrog her opponents from the outside, resisting the late challenge of China’s Guo Shuang as the crowd went into a delirious state.
Hong Kong’s Lee Wai Sze took the bronze.
“The crowd have been fantastic, they really helped me today,” said Pendleton.
Russian medal contender Victoria Baranova did not take part in the keirin after she was sent home by her national federation because she had failed a pre-Olympics test for testosterone. — Reuters