Gold stars now look well ahead

Bradley Wiggins (right) with the GB Mens Pursuit Team of Ed Clancy (second left), Steven Burke and Geraint Thomas (front) as they win the Final of the Mens Pursuit Event at the World Cup Cycling during the Track World Cup at the National Cycling Centre, Manchester. r. Photo: John Giles/PA Wire.
Bradley Wiggins (right) with the GB Mens Pursuit Team of Ed Clancy (second left), Steven Burke and Geraint Thomas (front) as they win the Final of the Mens Pursuit Event at the World Cup Cycling during the Track World Cup at the National Cycling Centre, Manchester. r. Photo: John Giles/PA Wire.
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Bradley Wiggins and Great Britain’s team pursuit squad turned their focus to the London 2012 Olympic Games after storming to victory at the Track World Cup in Manchester today.

Britain won six medals in the opening two days, including two gold, and added three more on the final day of competition yesterday. The men’s team sprint squad of Jason Kenny, Matt Crampton and Sir Chris Hoy - men’s Keirin champion on Saturday - won bronze and Victoria Pendleton also had to settle for third place in the women’s Keirin.

But Britain ended the final event before next month’s Track Cycling World Championships in Holland with a bang as Olympic champions and world record holders Wiggins, Geraint Thomas and Ed Clancy combined with Steven Burke to win the men’s four-kilometre team pursuit in three minutes 55.438 seconds. Wiggins was riding the event for the first time since taking gold in Beijing in 2008 and representing Britain on the track for the first time since the November 2008 World Cup, when he rode the Madison.

Wiggins and Thomas miss the Worlds but they are determined to retain their Olympic crown next year after setting the fifth fastest time in history yesterday. Four of the first five are now British.

Wiggins said: “If anyone wants to come along and try to get close to us, like the Aussies are, that only pushes us and keeps us on our toes.

“We’re the Olympic champions and we’re going to defend that title and we’ve got to be the favourites.”

Thomas said Britain had performed at “50%” of their ability: “I’m happy. To go that fast after winter training is a massive achievement.From October it will all be about London.”

The quartet had hoped to threaten the world record of 3mins 53.314secs they set in Beijing following a qualifying effort of 3:57.471.

Wiggins, who rode the Tour of Qatar earlier this month, added: “It was slightly disappointing when we crossed the line, but in hindsight we’ve had limited preparation time and we’ve done 3:55.”

Clancy relinquished the world team pursuit title in his team-mates’ absence but became global omnium champion.

Hoy and Kenny - both of whom celebrate their birthdays on day one of the World Championships on March 23, Hoy turning 35 and Kenny 23 - will be crucial components of the World Championships squad. But they will have work to do in the team sprint after finishing third in 44.087secs as France beat Germany to gold.

Hoy was pleased with his performances this weekend, having only returned from a training camp in Australia last Sunday.

The Scot said: “A gold medal and two bronzes certainly isn’t a bad weekend’s haul.

“I’m not by any stretch of the imagination feeling fresh yet, so with a bit rest and recovery, I should be going really well by the World Championships.

Victoria Pendleton was also satisfied with her Keirin display as she claimed a second bronze of the weekend after finishing third in the sprint on Saturday.

In the women’s omnium, Lizzie Armitstead, from Otley, finished seventh.