Olympics cycling: GB blow Aussies - and the rest - away

By Chris BevanBBC Sport at the Olympic Park
GB win pursuit in world record time

"We are ready and confident and, yeah, let's stick it to the Poms."

Those were the words of Australian team pursuit star Jack Bobridge, talking on the eve of London 2012.

He could well have been talking for the rest of their track squad too, such were the expectations placed on Anna Meares and co, but it is the Poms who have ended up putting the Aussies in their place - which, so far, has definitely not been on the top of the podium.

Many of the 10 Olympic track cycling events were seen as a two-horse race or 'The Ashesexternal-link on Wheels'.

However, four days into the competition and with only four golds left up for grabs, if you wanted to continue the cricketing analogy you would say the Aussies are heading for a series whitewash.

Team GB's women's team pursuit triumph on Saturday brought the home total in three days in the London Velodrome to four golds from the first five events and Ed Clancy added bronze in the omnium on Sunday.

The haul would be even bigger, too, had keirin winner Victoria Pendleton and her partner Jess Varnish not been denied a shot at gold in the final of the women's team sprint for making an illegal change-over in their semi-final.

Australia's tally? One silver, from Bobridge and his team-mates, and a bronze.external-link

Nobody else can get near Team GB either, on the track or in the medal table. France, Germany and China are the only other nations with more than one medal in the velodrome and, using standard London Tube parlance, the message to GB's rivals is becoming "please mind the gap".

The haul has exceeded expectations for most people, apart from British Cycling's performance director Dave Brailsford.

"I think we knew we were competitive coming into the Games," Brailsford told BBC Sport. "We have got our timing right again, and we are peaking coming into the Games, which is the important thing.

GB's golden girls win team pursuit final

"The coaches have done a brilliant job. It was always going to be tough because the competition is fierce, but I wouldn't say I am surprised by what we have done, put it that way."

Why is the difference so big? Australia's high-performance manager Paul Brosnan told me that their coaching staff will not discuss their team's results - or Britain's for that matter - in London until the Games are over. Their travelling press corp are hopeful results will improve but their mood at the moment is bleak.

Bobridge is keeping quiet too. "He is a pretty chirpy lad and usually up for a bit of banter but he hasn't been saying much," said GB team pursuiter Peter Kennaugh after beating him to gold.

But Australia are not the only ones trailing in Team GB's wake. Italy's track cycling head coach Marco Villa told BBC Sport: "They are phenomenal. In the last few months we had started to see Britain come back to challenge Australia to be the best team, but so far their success has been unbelievable.

"To peak at the right time like they are doing is not as easy as you think, otherwise everybody would do it. You need a system where the coach knows the rider, and the rider knows himself.

"If you have talent to go with it, that is how you build champions, and Britain have many champions on their team."

How many, precisely, remains to be seen. New Zealand endurance coach Dayle Cheatley feels it might be difficult to stop the GB juggernaut now it is rumbling around the track.

"I don't think it is surprising they have come out and dominated proceedings in the first few days. They showed at the Beijing Olympics that they are the number one nation in the world.

"How can other countries compete? Well, there is a big budget gap with what our set-up has, so it is very difficult.

"I can't really comment on the Australia track programme but it is public knowledge about how much the funding that the GB programme gets. All credit to them, though. They use the money wisely, and they get the results."

Credit for that comes back round to the man who helped start the cycling revolution on these shores, Brailsford.

His latest project, the commercially sponsored British road cycling team Team Sky which launched at the start of 2010, was viewed in some quarters as being a potential distraction to success on the track at these Games, especially when track results dipped in 2011.

Instead, by allowing Britain's top coaches and riders such as gold medal-winning team pursuiter Geraint Thomas to to be part of both projects, it has brought success on the road and track, leaving other nations envious of the dual set-up.

Pendleton wins gold in the keirin

"Britain have good riders and the other ingredient is focus, which is down to the whole team," added Villa. "With Team Sky as well, the British have put a superb all-round cycling system together. Naturally we would like to do it too but it is just not possible.

"In Italy we also have good young riders but we lose them to the road teams. We have to show to our young riders what the British are doing - they work for the Olympics every four years but they are professional road racers too."

The gold rush in the velodrome, to go with Bradley Wiggins's historic victory in this year's Tour de France (not to mention his Olympic time trial triumph too) is vindication for Brailsford that his grand plan has come off.

He explained to me this week: "When I sat down with UK Sport to talk about setting up a road team too, I said 'here we are folks, here's a brilliant idea - we can have Team Sky too, I can run this whole programme. Don't worry I'm not stupid, I'm not going to hinder one thing or the other'.

"The first reaction I got was to be interrogated about it, with everybody telling me it wasn't possible. UK Sport commissioned a Deloitte report and also held a review to see if I was capable of doing both, which I saw as a waste of money.

"All they had to do was have a bit of faith in me and I would repay them. I've never not succeeded and I am not going to stop succeeding now - and I think they could have shown me a bit more trust."

The events of the past month mean Brailsford should never have the same problem again. Meanwhile, everybody else is playing catch-up - on the track and on the road too.