Track Cycling, Tokyo Olympics 2020: Kennys find silver lining on dramatic day in velodrome

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Jason and Laura Kenny - PA
Jason and Laura Kenny - PA

First the positives. Britain’s cyclists across all disciplines are now just one medal shy of their pre-Games target of eight, with plenty more opportunities to come over the coming days; Jason Kenny is now the joint-most decorated Olympian of all time in terms of medals won with eight (six of them gold) and he still has two individual events to come; and it took a couple of staggering performances from Germany and the Netherlands respectively to beat GB’s women’s pursuit and men’s sprint teams into second place.

No shame in any of that.

Except, this was not how it was meant to go. A day of head-spinning twists and turns, with protests, cheating allegations, crashes and retirements, ended, finally, with three firsts. GB’s men’s pursuit team lost a race at an Olympic Games for the first time since 2004. GB’s men’s sprint team lost a race at an Olympics for the first time since 2004. And GB’s women’s pursuit team lost a race for the first time. Ever.

Britain’s track hegemony was never going to last forever. We knew that. But still, when it happened it felt somehow shocking. In the space of an hour, all the old certainties pulled down; the Jason and Laura Show buffering.

Laura Kenny had never lost at an Olympic event she had entered. The 29-year-old was four from four heading into Tuesday's women’s team pursuit. But from the moment the day began with news that Ed Clancy, the three-time Olympic champion, was withdrawing from the competition with a back injury, and GB accused Denmark of using illegal equipment, it felt like something was amiss.

Even after the GB quartet of Kenny, Katie Archibald, Neah Evans and Josie Knight qualified for the final with a stunning world record time of 4:06.748, it was not plain sailing. There was a slight stumble on the warm-down, Archibald crashing into team mate Evans, bringing both riders down. They then had to watch as Germany, the surprise package of these track championships so far, lowered the world record again in their semi-final with a 4:06.159.

Could GB eke out a few more tenths? It proved irrelevant. Germany went and annihilated the world record in the final by a full two seconds, posting a 4:04.242 to win by a country mile as the British quartet got more and more ragged, finishing in 4:10.607.

Archibald denied that the crash after the first round had had any effect. “It was mainly my pride that was hurt,” she said. “I'm hopeful that a lot of people had a lie-in and only got up for the final but I know it's one of those clips that's going to be played over and over again. I wanted the ground to swallow me up as I went sliding into her. I feel as much shame as you can imagine a person would feel.”

Archibald added that the decision to swap out Elinor Barker for Neah Evans was tactical and denied it would have made a difference in the final.

Kenny, sitting next to her, agreed. Germany were just too good. “They were phenomenal, you can't take anything away from them,” she said. “That is incredible, that's going to be a record that stands for a long time I think."

Track Cycling, Tokyo Olympics 2020 live: Kennys find silver lining on dramatic day in velodorome
Track Cycling, Tokyo Olympics 2020 live: Kennys find silver lining on dramatic day in velodorome

One hour later it was her husband Jason Kenny saying almost exactly the same thing about the Dutch. Again, the GB men had performed brilliantly in their first round (semi-final), posting an Olympic record and personal best of 41.829, it lasted just minutes as the Dutch, who have really taken this event on in the last few years, set a 41.431. In sprinting terms, four tenths is an age.

The writing was on the wall. “We were out of it before we went in,” admitted man two Jack Carlin. “Four tenths is huge. So we gambled.”

The GB team ‘geared up’ in the hope of producing something seismic, but the gamble did not come off. The Dutch - who were able to swap men between the two rounds as they do not have a pursuit team and therefore brought an extra sprinter - were both fresher and faster.

In the final they lowered the OR again to 41.369 whereas Britain completely fell apart, Carlin at man two losing contact with Ryan Owens at man one, Kenny at man three losing contact with Carlin. “They were better than us today, simple as that,” Kenny conceded, adding that he did not agree it was the end of an era.

“I don’t think so. At the end of the day, we’ve always been on the right side of the few tenths it takes to win. This time, we were on the wrong side.”

Maybe, but it did not help the general feeling of discombobulation that Kenny then succeeded that comment with a rather gloomy one looking ahead to his chances in the sprint and the keirin over the coming days. “I think personally, my best chance of being on the podium was probably in that event [the team sprint],” he said. He may just have been trying to ease the pressure, lower expectations a bit. But after 13 years of near-total dominance, there was a slight end-of-days feel to proceedings.

Day two of track cycling, as it happened . . .

09:16 AM

Jason Kenny: Every time you come back it gets harder

After winning his eighth medal to join Sir Bradley Wiggins as Britain's most successful Olympian – Kenny has six golds and two silvers, while Wiggins won five golds, one silver and two bronze medals – Jason Kenny has said he thought he was 'rubbish' in the team sprint final against the Dutch, but winning silver was 'special'.

Speaking to the BBC, Kenny said: "It was really good. We poured our heart in the second ride to get into the final and then rolled the dice.

Jason Kenny and Harrie Lavreysen - GETTY IMAGES
Jason Kenny and Harrie Lavreysen - GETTY IMAGES

"We knew we had ground to make up and I just had nothing in the final. I was rubbish but we tried so hard to get there. "It's really special. Every time you come back it gets harder."

On landing silver in the women's team pursuit, Jason's wife Laura Kenny became the fourth British woman to win at least five medals at the Olympics – the others being Charlotte Dujardin (six), Katherine Grainger (five) and Kitty McKane (five) – while their household now has an incredible 13 medals stuffed away in the sock cupboard, or wherever the couple keep their gold and silver gongs.

08:56 AM

Dutch win men's team sprint gold

Netherlands set the fastest first lap and although Britain appeared to be fighting back, they just could not do anything about the mighty Dutch who have just been crowned Olympic champions. Ryan Owens and Jack Carlin take silver while their team-mate Jason Kenny goes level with Sir Bradley Wiggins on eight Olympic medals.

08:54 AM

Netherlands vs Great Britain: men's team sprint final

Ryan Owens, Jack Carlin and Jason Kenny are up against Jeffrey Hoogland, Harrie Lavreysen and Roy van den Berg, the Dutch making one change from the team that reached the final. The arrival of fresh-legged Hoogland may give the Dutch a slight advantage.

08:52 AM

France win bronze . . .

. . . after the Australian trio falls apart way too early.

08:50 AM

Men's team sprint finals are taking place . . .

. . . and yet again there has been some drama in the match between Germany and the riders from the Russian Olympic Committee, aka the Russians. After New Zealand beat Poland to take seventh spot, there was a false start, and a little more confusion, in the race for fifth. It looks as if Germany got the upper hand but as has been the case for much of the session, there's a lot of confusion about what exactly happened. Anyway, next up is the race for bronze between France and Australia before Britain face the Dutch in the final.

08:36 AM

Germany win gold with world record time

What an incredible ride that was from the German quartet of Franziska Brausse, Lisa Brennauer, Lisa Klein and Mieke Kröger who have ended Team GB's dominance of the women's team pursuit at the Olympics with a world record time of 4min 4.242sec. That's just a few seconds slower than the men were racing in Athens, absolutely brilliant stuff from Germany. The British, obviously, take silver.

08:35 AM

German to win gold

Germany are reduced to three riders after 2.75km, but show no sign of slowing. With 500 metres to go the Germans have Team GB in their sights and are on course for a very fast time here today.

08:34 AM

Team GB losing time

They are over two seconds down at the midway point in this race and have left themselves an awful lot to do, perhaps too much.

08:32 AM

Germany extend their lead. . .

. . . and Team GB are over a second down after just 1,00 metres.

08:32 AM

Team GB trail after 500 metres. . . .

. . . marginally.

08:31 AM

And they're off!

Franziska Brausse pulls off for Germany; Katie Archibald for Britain.

08:29 AM

Team GB vs Germany in race for women's team pursuit gold

Here we go, Team GB are about to get their race for gold against Germany under way. Franziska Brausse, Lisa Brennauer, Lisa Klein and Mieke Kröger, remember, are absolutely flying and are the world record holders – set today – and so it is no given that Laura Kenny and her team-mates Katie Archibald, Neah Evans and Josie Knight will be taking home gold, far from it. This could be a very close race.

08:28 AM

USA clinch bronze . . .

. . . after a strong final few laps.

08:24 AM

Race for bronze ins under way . . .

North American neighbours United States and Canada are out on the track, can Chloe Dygert inspire her compatriots to victory which would assure USA a bronze medal in the track cycling competition.

08:21 AM

Australia beat Italy . . .

. . . to finish in fifth place.

08:17 AM

Meanwhile, back on the track . . .

France beat New Zealand to finish seventh in the women's team pursuit, while Australia have got their race against a Italy under way.

08:07 AM

Dutch go faster again . . .

This track is fast. The Dutch trio set an Olympic record of 41.431sec to beat Poland and set up a final showdown with Jason Kenny and fellow Britons Jack Carlin and Ryan Owens. Team GB are now guaranteed two medals on the track today in the women's team pursuit and men's team sprint, but what coloured pieces of metal will be going home with the Kennys et al?

08:03 AM

Team GB vs Germany in men's team sprint. . .

. . . and it is the British who progress with yet another Olympic record time of 41.829sec. Next up is the Dutch vs Poland.

08:02 AM

Denmark through to team pursuit final, according to reports

Not entirely sure where the BBC are getting their information from, but they are saying the Danes are through at the expense of Team GB. The finals are tomorrow, so the decision may not be confirmed for some time yet – one suspects that there will be appeals, complaints and lots of head scratching in the track centre right now.

Here's what the International Cycling Union rules state which is not good reading for those sat at home in their Union flag pyjamas.

In the last two heats of the first competition round, if one team catches the other, the catching team is declared the winner and shall stop as soon as possible in order to allow the other team to finish the distance and thus to record a time. In this case, if one or both teams catch their opponents, the times from the qualifying round shall be used to determine which of the two teams shall finish in the home straight.

During the finals, if one team is caught by the other, the race is over, and the catching team shall be declared the winner.

In both situations above, a pistol shot marks the end of the race at the moment on which the team crosses its finish line at the full distance or at the moment on which one team catches the other.

08:01 AM

Australia set Olympic record in men's team sprint

As soon as we have any more news or updates on the men's team pursuit situation, we will let you know. The men's team sprint heats are already under way, France beat New Zealand before Australia brushed aside Russian Olympic Committee with an Olympic record time of 42.103sec.

07:52 AM

Chaos on the track!

After Team GB fell apart with their quartet having been reduced to three riders – split into two groups – Dane Frederik Madsen rear-ended Charlie Tanfield taking him down at great speed. Not entirely sure what happens next, but think Denmark may be saying goodbye to the chance of winning Olympic gold. In order to qualify for the next round three riders need to cross the line to register a time, both Team GB and Denmark only had two riders still upright.

Frederik Madsen collided with Charlie Tanfield - SWPIX.COM
Frederik Madsen collided with Charlie Tanfield - SWPIX.COM

07:49 AM

Denmark overhaul Team GB . . .

. . . and the Danes, coached by British aerodynamicist Dan Bigham, are taking control.

07:48 AM

Team GB off to a fast start

Quite surprisingly, Team GB are faster than world champions Denmark after 1,000 metres of racing.

07:46 AM

Italy set world record!

After appearing to be on the rack throughout the best part of the race, Italy blow away the world record. Fillipo Ganna, the individual team pursuit world champion, did a huge turn on the front to drag his team-mates around and stun the velodrome to complete their race in a blistering time of 3min 42.307sec which will, surely, mean they will contest for bronze later this morning. Laura Kenny is spotted track centre looking aghast.

07:41 AM

Team GB claim Danes should be disqualified

By Tom Cary, Senior Sports Correspondent in Izu

A major row has kicked off ahead of Great Britain’s first round ride against world record holders Denmark in the team pursuit, with British Cycling performance director Stephen Park telling a few journos here in Izu that he believes the Danes ought to have been disqualified for wearing illegal shin-tape and undervests in qualifying yesterday.

Park says the shin tape is illegal as it falls foul of the ruling that you must not apply “any material or substance onto the skin or clothing which is not itself an item of clothing." And the undervests, he says, were not commercially available on Jan 1 as UCI rules state they must be. Incredibly, he says the “source code” online appears to have changed in the last 24hrs to make it look as if the garments were available on Jan 1.

Park says “multiple teams” protested and there was a big meeting earlier today where commissaires basically conceded the rules had been broken and therefore Denmark would not be allowed to use either the tape or the undervests in their ride today, but that they would not be disqualified. Park argues that was the “only option” for “deliberately turning up in breach of the regulations”.

07:39 AM

Australia bounce back in style

Following the crash from Alexander Porter that did for Australia's team pursuit hopes on Monday, Australia set an Olympic record of 3min 44.902sec to put themselves in the boxseat to challenge for a bronze medal. Of course, should Italy or New Zealand go faster then they will go into the race for third place. Who said track cycling was complicated?

07:34 AM

Canada keep hopes of bronze medal alive with national record

Canada beat Germany in their men's team pursuit heat race, setting a national record time of 3min 46.769sec. That may be enough for them to contest for a bronze medal later today, but that will depend on the times set in the heat between the Swiss and Australia.

07:24 AM

Team GB second best to flying Dutchmen

Ryan Owens took up man one position and sett off at a blistering pace with the fastest opening lap of the day. Jack Carlin replaced Owens before Jason Kenny finished it off to clock the second fastest time of the day (42.231sec). As a result of that, Team GB will now face Germany in their heat and must beat them to progress to the race for gold.

07:21 AM

France third fastest... Team GB poised to race

France clocked a time of 42.722sec which was the third fastest of the day, before the New Zealand trio of Sam Dakin, Ethan Mitchell and Sam Webster complete their race in 43.066sec – the fourth quicket. Nest up is Team GB's Jason Kenny, Ryan Owens and Jack Carlin.

07:17 AM

Look at those flying Dutchmen!

The Dutch trio of Matthijs Büchli, Harrie Lavreysen and Roy van den Berg overhaul the Olympic record that stood for roughly a minute or so. The new Olympic benchmark is 42.134sec.

07:12 AM

Australian set Olympic record in men's team sprint qualifying

Such is the nature of track racing at the Olympics where there is barely a moment for spectators to catch a breath, the qualifying races in the men's team sprint is very much under way. The Australian trio of Matthew Richardson, Nathan Hart and Matthew Glaetzer have just completed their race and set the fastest time of the day so far with an Olympic record of 42.371sec.

07:01 AM

Germany break world record to progress to final

Germany beat a ragged looking Italy, whose women's team pursuit squad fell apart at the midway point of the race, to reach the final where they will face Team GB. Worryingly for the British squad, the Germans broke the world record Team GB set a few minutes ago to set up a mouthwatering final. That new record is: 4min 6.159sec.

06:51 AM

Team GB beat USA with world record time

That's the way to do it. Team GB's women set a world record time of 4min 6.748sec to beat USA and go into the team pursuit final where they will contest for a gold medal. There is a touching of wheels between Katie Archibald and, I think, Neah Evans causing the pair to crash but it does not appear that either is too bashed up.

Neah Evans and Katie Archibald - GETTY IMAGES
Neah Evans and Katie Archibald - GETTY IMAGES

06:50 AM

Team GB holding on . . .

. . . at the 3km mark as they are reduced to three riders.

06:49 AM

Team GB inch ahead of USA . . .

. . . but is is really close. In fact, this is just too close to call.

06:48 AM

USA lead after 1km

Katie Archibald started strong for Team GB, but USA were fastest after four laps of the 4,000m (16 laps) race.

06:47 AM

Team GB vs USA

There's no Elinor Barker, a multiple gold medallist in this event, but Team GB are ready to go head-to-head with USA. Whoever wins this race will go into the race for the gold medal later on this morning.

06:45 AM

Canada trounce France

Both teams were reduced to three riders for the final few laps and the French really started to struggle towards the end of their race. In the end Canada knocked them out of the park setting a national record time of 4min 9.249sec, which is also faster than Australia's time, to beat France (4min 11.888sec) by over two seconds.

06:37 AM

Australia win ding-dong heat with Kiwis

Australia appeared in control at the midway point of the 4,000m women's team pursuit race with New Zealand, but the Kiwis clawed their way back into contention in the third quarter. In the end, however, the Aussies regained control despite a riding ragged final lap winning in a time of 4min 9.992sec. The Kiwis going at 4min 10.223sec – the finals are determined on the times from the heats.

06:32 AM

And they're off!

New Zealand women and their Aussie rivals are out on the boards for their first round heat. Following a polite ripple of applause from the under-capacity crowd and the customary 'beeps' to signify the countdown to the start of racing, both squads get the day's action under way.

06:29 AM

Barker out, Evans in . . .

Neah Evans will replace Elinor Barker in the Great Britain's women's team pursuit line-up later this morning when they face United States in their first round heat race. Seems like a pretty busy morning in the Team GB camp with all these late changes and announcements.

06:02 AM

Clancy announces retirement from Great Britain cycling team

Now this is something we were not expecting ahead of a huge test against world champions Denmark in the men's team pursuit heats. Ed Clancy, the 36-year-old three-time Olympic gold medallist in the event and the most experienced rider in the squad, has withdrawn from the Games meaning his Olympic career is over.

Ed Clancy - PA
Ed Clancy - PA

British Cycling issues a statement this morning saying Clancy had withdrawn as a result of an on-going back and sciatica issue. "I’m absolutely gutted that my Olympic career has ended this way, but it would be unfair of me to try to carry on now I have aggravated my back injury," Clancy said in the statement.

"Ultimately, I want the rest of the lads to build on the hard work we have done over the past year and a half and give them the best possible chance of making it on to the podium. I will be supporting them all the way."

"I’ve spent just over 20 years on the Great Britain Cycling Team and I see it as my family. I have achieved more during my time than I ever could have dreamed of, it’s something I will remember for the rest of my life. It’s been a pleasure, to the extent that if I could go back in time I would do it all over again. It’s a tough call, because I’m enjoying it more now than I ever have done, but the difficult choice is usually the right one and right now is the time to go. I want to thank everyone – family, friends, coaches, trade teams, sponsors, British Cycling and everyone else who has supported me – my career success has been a big team effort.

"In terms of what’s next, I still love riding bikes and I plan on rounding out the season competing in UCI Track Champions League, as well as focusing on building up the Clancy Briggs Cycling Academy. I also really enjoy my ambassadorial role with Pro-Noctis so I would like to do more with them, and I definitely would love to stay connected with British Cycling. I have plenty of options, but right now I will be putting all my energy in doing what I can to support the Great Britain Cycling Team out here in Tokyo."

Stephen Park, British Cycling performance director, added: "I admire Ed for taking the decision to retire from the sport which he still has a strong passion for. I know it was tough for him having to withdraw from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on account of his back issues, but his professionalism and honesty led him to make this decision and he can hold his head high knowing he was part of the quartet who posted the fourth fastest time in an event we know would be incredibly competitive.

"Through his domination in the team pursuit and by winning three consecutive Olympic gold medals, Ed has played a big part in driving the event forward, to the extent where we are witnessing the times we saw posted in Berlin and what we saw yesterday in qualifying.

"Away from the bike, Ed embodies the values of our team and has become a trusted mentor to his younger team-mates. It’s been a pleasure to support Ed with his fantastic achievements and on behalf of everyone on the Great Britain Cycling Team, I wish him the very best of luck for the future, and I hope he keeps some involvement with us.

"In terms of the team pursuit events taking place today, Charlie Tanfield will join Ethan Hayter, Ethan Vernon and Ollie Wood in the line-up."

05:50 AM

Morning

Hello and welcome to our live rolling blog from the second day of the Olympics track cycling at the Izu Velodrome in Shizuoka, Japan.

As you can see from the below schedule, it is another packed programme of racing with the heats of the women's team pursuit kicking off proceedings in earnest with the fours races determining who will later on contest for medals. As you will be be aware, Team GB face a tough test in USA and, should they progress then arguably a tougher test yet should they end up going toe-to-toe with Germany who set a world record (4min 7.307sec) in qualifying on Monday.

Once that is over, the men's team sprint competition kicks off with their qualifying races, before it is the turn of the men's team pursuit squads to contest their heat races ahead of Wednesday's finals. For those of a Team GB persuasion, the British quartet Ed Clancy, Ollie Wood, Ethan Hayter and Ethan Vernon face world record holders Denmark at around 8.40am on Tuesday morning for a place in the gold medal ride. It will be a huge surprise if Team GB were to win that race, but let's see what happens out on the boards, shall we?

Ethan Hayter (left to right), Ethan Vernon, Ollie Wood and Ed Clancy - SWPIX.COM
Ethan Hayter (left to right), Ethan Vernon, Ollie Wood and Ed Clancy - SWPIX.COM

The men's team sprint heats follow, before the women's team pursuit finals are contested and then, finally, the session winds up with the team sprint finals. In theory Jason Kenny, who will be riding with Ryan Owens and Jack Carlin, could become Britain's most successful Olympian of all time later today if he were to leapfrog his old team-mate Sir Chris Hoy and win a seventh gold medal in the team sprint. As I mentioned yesterday, though, this is the first international track cycling meeting since February 2020 – pre-lockdown – and so it is almost impossible to predict much the form of the riders is broadly unknown so I shall leave the speculation for others to muse over.

Jason Kenny - AP
Jason Kenny - AP

Should be a highly entertaining morning of racing with our live blog firing back up and into action when the first race starts at 7.30am.

04:51 AM

Records tumbled on opening day

By Tom Cary, Senior Sports Correspondent in Shizuoka

It was no surprise to see the world record tumble in women’s team pursuit qualifying on the opening day of the track competition in Izu yesterday. World records tend to tumble on the first day of track cycling at an Olympics, with all that shiny new kit and pent-up energy. The only surprise was who broke it.

Team GB - GETTY IMAGES
Team GB - GETTY IMAGES

Laura Kenny’s bid for an historic fifth Olympic gold medal today – the first of three attempts from the four-time Olympic champion this week as she seeks to reestablish herself as Britain’s most successful female Olympian – will face a stern examination this morning after Germany came from nowhere yesterday to annihilate Great Britain’s old world record.

Usually it is Great Britain doing the annihilating. In fact, at every round of every Games since women’s team pursuit was added to the Olympics in 2012, Britain have lowered their own world record

This time Germany got in there first. Their time of 4:07.307 obliterated the previous mark of 4:10.236 set by Great Britain in the final in Rio five years ago. And while the Great Britainquartet of Kenny, Katie Archibald, Elinor Barker and Josie Knight also managed to beat their old time, clocking 4:09.022, that still left them 1.7sec off the pace and meant they could only qualify second quickest for this morning’s ‘first round’, or semi-final.

That means they have to face off against arch rivals the United States at 7.44am this morning.

Only if successful in that match-up will Kenny and co go on to face the winner of Germany versus Italy – almost certainly Germany on yesterday’s evidence – in the gold medal ride at around 9.30am.

The United States will be no pushovers. Chloe Dygert, the individual pursuit world record holder, arrived at these Games off the back of minimal racing following a horrific accident at last year’s road world championships. And she did not look to be in great form in either the road race or the time trial. But she still dragged her team around the track yesterday, even riding away from them towards the finish. If they can stay on her wheel, she could well carry them to a much faster time. Likewise Great Britain, with Archibald looking by far their strongest rider, and riding clear of Kenny and Barker in the final 500m after Knight had earlier dropped out.

Either way, there was no denying the sense of shock at what Germany produced. “I think we were focusing on America and Great Britain, and Germany were [seen as] a threat but that is an incredible time,” said Sir Chris Hoy on the BBC who noted the time was even more impressive as it was set in qualifying.

“You’ve got to remember that [time] is with a single team on the track. The world record [in Rio] was broken by two teams on the track, and you get an aerodynamic benefit from two teams circulating at the same time. It makes that performance even more impressive. The Germans stayed together really well. The Americans and GB were a little bit ragged towards the end. That gap [to Archibald] opened up and GB probably lost half a second.”

Barker, though, sounded optimistic, saying she felt Germany were beatable. “I hope so,” she said. “They’ve not always been the most consistent but then again we haven’t really seen them for a year and a half so maybe it’s something they’ve worked on. It will certainly be interesting. It was about 1.6 seconds [the gap]I think so that's very much in the realms of what is possible.”

Great Britainhave to get past the USA first, though, with Barker conceding that Dygert was looking formidable again.

“It did look that way. It would be interesting to see what their exchange of pace is. She's clearly doing very well on a personal level anyway. Maybe we came out a bit too strong ourselves and paid for that slightly towards the back end but lucky for us we have our not-so-secret weapon in Katie to bring it all to the finish.”

Archibald, meanwhile, hinted that they might make changes between this morning’s two rounds, with Neah Evans also available for selection. “We brought a team of five so that was always on the cards with an hour and a half gap tomorrow,” she said. “Backing up becomes really important.”