Favourites Australia were hit by disaster in the men’s team pursuit at the London Track Cycling World Cup with a mid-race puncture meaning the team failed to qualify for the gold-medal final.
But the women’s pursuit team rode brilliantly at the Olympic velodrome in east London to take silver behind the unbeatable Great Britain quartet, who was riding in front of a vocal home crowd.
The men’s sprint team of Matthew Glaetzer, Nathan Hart and Shane Perkins won Australia’s only other medal on the opening night’s racing (Saturday morning AEDT) taking silver behind Germany.
The Aussie men’s pursuit team initially qualified fastest beating Great Britain by almost two seconds.
But in their first round clash against New Zealand the team was already down to three riders when Luke Davison punctured.
With that number needed to record a finishing time the Australians’ race was immediately over.
Scott Sunderland had pulled off the previous lap leaving Davison with Alex Edmondson and Mitchell Mulhern.
“We had hoped that we’d get Scott deeper into the race (but) it’s always a bit tricky when you haven’t ridden a qualifying round and you come in for a second round,” national endurance coach Matthew Gilmore told AAP afterwards.
Team management spoke to race officials in an attempt to get the race restarted due to a “mechanical” but the judges weren’t buying that argument.
“You just try and be cheeky at that stage,” Gilmore said of the inquiry.
“You’ve qualified first, you’re probably the best team on the track and you want to be able to ride the final.”
Australia went on to post the best time of the night when easily winning the race for seventh. The quartet was the only team to break four minutes as Great Britain won gold with a time of 4 minutes 01.15 seconds.
The Australian women made it to their gold-medal final but came up against the imperious British squad who are undefeated at a major championship over the past four years.
The Aussies – Isabella King, Ashlee Ankudinoff, Amy Cure and Melissa Hoskins – took silver in a time of 4:24.34. They were just over two seconds behind the Brits.
“What we are really encouraged about is the amount of ground that we’ve been able to close in a very short period of time,” Gilmore said.
“As far as we’re concerned in our cycle we’re tracking along really well towards Rio.”
The coach said Australia had to make up an almost five-second gap from the World Championships and in qualifying on Friday the team was within 0.1 seconds.
Hoskins believes the team is moving in the right direction.
“It’s been two-and-a-half years since I was here last and the crowd wasn’t in our favour then (at the London Olympics) and it wasn’t in our favour tonight but we gave them a run,” she told AAP.
“We threw everything we had at them so we can’t be disappointed. We’ve got a sniff of it now – we’re coming.”
Sprint queen Anna Meares also returned to racing at the velodrome for the first time since taking gold in mid-2012 ahead of fierce British rival Victoria Pendleton.
The Queensland-born rider took fourth in the team sprint on Friday night alongside Stephanie Morton. China secured the gold.
Meares will race the individual sprint on Saturday and the keirin on Sunday.
The road to Rio 2016 commenced at the first round of the Track World Cup in Mexico a month ago.