Australia celebrates 50th Olympic cycling medal with team pursuit silver
13 August 2016
CYCLING – TRACK: Australia celebrated its 50th cycling medal in Olympic competition with a superb silver in the men’s team pursuit at the Rio Olympic Velodrome on Friday.
In a nail-biting final against dual-reigning Olympic champions Great Britain, Australia’s triple Olympian Jack Bobridge, 2012 London silver medallist Michael Hepburn, Alexander Edmondson and debutant Sam Welsford bolted from the gates to lead at every time check through to the three kilometre mark.
However, Great Britain’s Ed Clancy, Steven Burke, Owain Doull and Bradley Wiggins – who broke the world record in the afternoon’s first round - fought back to overhaul the Australians with just four laps to go.
In a tense final kilometre, the Brits powered home to claim their third straight gold and set a new world mark of 3mins 50.265secs, just seven-tenths of a second ahead of Australia (3:51.008).
“It’s hard to describe at the moment,” said Hepburn after claiming his second straight Olympic silver medal in the pursuit. “We put so much into this especially after London and the silver medal four years ago and we were working for the gold but you know that’s life it’s just a bike race and we can be proud of the silver.”
Earlier in the day in the first round, twenty-year-old Callum Scotson came in to the side for Jack Bobridge, with Australia staging an epic comeback after trailing Denmark by over three-quarters of a second after three kilometres.
Great Britain shattered their own work mark – set at the London 2012 Games – as they easily defeated New Zealand to set up the ‘Ashes on the Track’ battle.
In a tactical move, Bobridge returned for the final ready for an all-out effort the team knew they would need in order to defeat the talented British side for gold.
And it was game on from the start, with Australia taking a three-tenths of a second lead after the first kilometre, before extending it to .695 at the halfway mark.
The lead waivered around half a second until the three kilometre mark where the British outfit reeled Australia to within nine one-hundredths of a second.
With Australia down to three riders after Bobridge exited after a tremendous team effort, the Great British took the lead inside the final few hundreds metres and stormed to win gold in world record time.
“The plan was to always go out hard and peel with Jack and the key was to not lose pace. We said to the guys to stay on the front for as long as they could,” added Hepburn, after the ride which is now an Australian record. “We didn’t know what was going to happen in the last kilometre but we had to try.
“Realistically if your riding at 49 or 48 pace for the first few kilometres like we were, then there was probably only a 10 per cent chance that we were going to hold on to that but that’s all we needed.
“We just needed to have faith and also if you’re riding that quick you’re putting the other team under a lot of pressure and it took a world record to just beat us.”
Like Hepburn, Bobridge was disappointed with not finding the top step of the podium but proud of the team’s effort.
“Everyone has done their bit,” said Bobridge, was with Hepburn, finished behind Great Britain at the 2012 London pursuit final. “To do eight years and to get two silver medals is frustrating but at the same time, even though it is disappointing, I can leave here tonight with this team knowing we didn’t leave one bit to spare in that final.
“We laid it all out there. You could ask anyone of these guys and coaches and there is nothing else we could have done. We’ve trained our asses off, we laid it all there and just got beat by a better team."
For Edmondson, who watched from the sidelines at the 2012 London Games after being selected to the team but failing to get a ride, he was happy with walking away with silver knowing he gave it his all.
”Of course when you come to the Olympic Games you want to stand on the top step,” said Edmondson. “But as Tim Decker always says, if you give it 100% and all you have got, you can’t be upset with that.
“We didn’t have anything to lose, we went full gas as we knew the Brits were in fine form.
“It is not quite wat we wanted it to do, but we just got beaten by a better team on the day.”
Rookie Welsford echoed Edmondson’s sentiments.
“Proud, but also a little bit of disappointed, it is always bitter sweet coming second,” said Welsford, 20. “It was a roller coaster out there today, we took it hard, as we knew that is what we had to do, we put up a great fight.
“But we (Australia) have a big future in pursuiting, with Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, and Tokyo 2020, I think we are in a good position.
“We gave it our best out there today, and I think we will grow from this performance and use it to move forward to bigger things.”
The medal was also Australia’s seventh in Olympic team pursuit competition, making it the equal most successful event for Australia along with the men’s sprint and men’s individual time trial.