Coming into the London Olympics, the world already knew of Team GB's recent pedigree in Road Cycling. As I wrote on the eve of the Games, Bradley Wiggins was the new king of the road after his Tour de France victory, and he backed this up with an astoundingly dominant gold-medal win in the Individual Time Trial event, which had cyclists tearing around the streets of southwest London.
But the world was likely unaware of Britain's Track Cycling weapons arsenal, which was finally unleashed on the sixth day of the Games. Located on the west side of Olympic Park, the noisy neighbour everyone can hear from the athlete's village is nicknamed "The Pringle" for its resemblance to a potato chip. Welcome to London's new Track Cycling party house: The Velodrome.
The place is LOUD, people. An architectural work of art, the Velodrome hosts 6,000 rabid fans, the majority of whom are rooting for Team GB, waving the Union Jack like it's going out of fashion and going bonkers whenever one of Britain's cyclists is announced over the loudspeakers.
The partisan crowd has not been disappointed, as the Brits have won five of the seven gold medals awarded thus far. Probably the most successful Track Cyclist on the planet is Sir Chris Hoy, Britain's flagbearer from the opening ceremonies and already the proud owner (collector?) of four gold medals along with his knighthood.
Hoy anchored the Brits to a dominant gold-medal performance in the Men's Team Sprint event, which opened the floodgates for what was to follow. Cheered on by Will, Harry and Kate, Victoria Pendleton (second only to perhaps Jessica Ennis as the country's favorite female Olympian) powered home to take the Women's Keirin event before both the men and women broke world records in winning the Team Pursuit events. Jason Kenny won the individual Men's Sprint today. Hoy will go for gold in the Men's Keirin event tomorrow.
For newbies to Track Cycling: the Keirin event is the one where some bloke dressed in black with a funny hat on rides a scooter out front for a few laps, gaining speed as he goes while the cyclists jostle for position behind. When the "Derny" (the aforementioned bloke with a funny hat) peels of the track, the individual cyclists pedal like billy-o for a sprint finish. It makes for compulsive viewing.
The event, developed in Japan, made its Olympic debut for the men in 2000 and this year for the women. So "Queen Victoria," in her last Olympics before she retires as Britain's most decorated female track cyclist, will leave a legacy as the first female Olympic Keirin champion. She will contest the Women's Individual Sprint final tomorrow, possibly bringing Team GB's Velodrome gold medal haul to six. Not too shabby.
Britain's fortunes in Track Cycling have benefited from funding through the National Lottery; it was one of the sports the British government earmarked in an "Own the Podium" way. Along with the medal count of the Rowers and the daily medals coming in Track and Field, Track Cycling is one of the success stories for Team GB in the Olympics thus far.
With this group added to the likes of Wiggo, Chris Froome and Mark Cavendish flying the flag for Road Cycling, the future is definitely bright for the Brits on two wheels.
By Matt Goff
Victoria Pendleton of Great Britain won gold in Women's Keirin Track Cycling. "Queen Victoria" is one of many British cyclists driving Velodrome crowds into a frenzy during the Olympics. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)