Bradley Wiggins’ return to track cycling, being made at the relatively ripe old age of 35 with the object of winning an eighth Olympic gold medal, continued in reassuring style in Derby on Friday night.
Sir Bradley, or “Wiggo” as the Union flag banner had it, made his first competitive start in a men’s pursuit since 2008 in the first of the Revolution Series, held at the spanking new £27.5m Derby Arena. A splendid facility it is, though there were teething problems, notably with the timing clock.
Wiggins, who back in June set a new hour world record with a distance of 54.526 km (33.881 miles), looked in understandably good shape, leading Great Britain A team-mates Steven Burke, Owain Doull and Jonathan Dibben to a time of 4min 00.324sec in the heats.
He did lead too, twice heading the train for a full two laps – “Like a locomotive!” said the man on the PA, admiringly – to ensure qualification for the final with the fastest time. They found themselves up against the GB under-23 squad in the final, suggesting this country’s dominance of the event – Olympic gold was won in both 2008 and 2012 – may be set to continue.
Dibben was replaced by Ed Clancy for the final, and as GB men’s endurance coach Heiko Salzwedel subsequently acknowledged, Clancy injected a serious dose of power, so much so the team finished in 3:54.974.
“We didn’t really know what to expect from the velodrome in qualifying, Bradley was nervous and he is such a dominant personality the rest of the team was nervous, and so probably played it a little bit safe,” said Salzwedel.
“He was much more confident for the final, and so the rest of the team was confident. Clancy rode superbly, he is ahead of everybody at the moment, but Bradley was powerful. This performance will do him a lot of good.”
Salzwedel said working with Wiggins during the seven-week buildup to his successful hour record attempt had convinced him the Londoner could achieve his ambition to repeat previous success on the track.
“I hadn’t been too sure he could make the transition back from the top level of road riding, but his application was extraordinary, and it continues to be so.”
The object of the exercise being in no small measure to establish the current pecking order within Team GB, Salzwedel professed himself satisfied, thus far at any rate. “Everybody understands the criteria for selection for the European championships, and then the world championships, and then the Olympics. I am pleased with the focus being shown,” he said.
Earlier, Joanna Rowsell won the women’s 3km individual pursuit, beating Ciara Horne in the final after at one stage being over a second down on her fellow Briton. Laura Trott won the third place ride-off.
In one practical respect, this event marks the start of the qualification process for the Rio Olympics. Riders need to score 90 UCI points before 15 September to qualify for the UCI World Cup races this season, and participation in the World Cup races is necessary to qualify for the World Championships and ultimately the Olympics. Riders receive 80pts for victory in each race in Derby.
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