WRAPUP 1-Cycling-Britain sends records tumbling at velodrome

Fri Feb 17, 2012 5:50pm EST

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* Britain sets two world records at Olympic venue

* Raucous crowd of 6,000 cheer hosts to two titles

* Germany, Australia and Spain also strike gold

By Julien Pretot

LONDON, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Britain's Olympic track cycling preparations picked up pace on Friday as the home team enjoyed a record-breaking first night of finals in front of a sparkling velodrome filled to the rafters with raucous supporters at the London World Cup series.

The hosts broke two world records en route to victory on a super-fast track in the women's team pursuit and team sprint finals, triggering celebrations among the 6,000 fans packed into a venue that will host the Olympic disciplines.

Victoria Pendleton rode a superb second lap to claim the team sprint gold in 32.754 seconds with Jessica Varnish, taking 0.074 off Australia's previous mark set earlier on Friday.

"It's just unbelievable, this track is amazing," Varnish told reporters before Pendleton said to her partner with typical understatement: "We were pleased, weren't we?"

Australian world champion Anna Meares, who was beaten in the final after setting a new best mark with Kaarle McCulloch in the morning's qualifying session, had mixed emotions.

"It's a little bit bittersweet for us after a fantastic qualifying round," she said. "I think the experience we can take from this is riding against a very loud British crowd."

"The Olympics is shaping up to be a very interesting competition. I'm backing me and my team mate, they (Britain) are backing themselves, and it will just come down to race day."

AMAZING CROWD

Britain's Laura Trott, Danielle King and Joanna Rowsell then snatched gold in the team pursuit final by demolishing the world record which had been set just a few minutes earlier by their Australian rivals in the race for the bronze medal.

"It drives me on just having the crowd behind us, it's amazing, I can't wait to come back here," said world champion Trott, whose team completed the 3,000 metres in 3:18.148.

"The last kilometre was so hard, but to have the crowd behind you is amazing. I was suffering so much but then they just spur you on."

Britain beat Canada in the final with the deafening cheers of the crowd constantly reverberating around the velodrome.

"It was an intimidating atmosphere, going up against the home-town favourites. But the crowd were great," said Canadian Gillian Carleton.

Chris Hoy, who won three of Britain's seven track cycling gold medals at the Beijing Olympics four years ago, was all smiles despite only managing third place in the team sprint.

"I don't think there's been a track anywhere I've raced on in the world that had that kind of public support," he said after Pendleton and Varnish joined the fans by shouting 'Go Chris!' as he whizzed past them while they gave interviews.

"What we're seeing here is just a hint of what we can expect come the Olympics," he added.

Germany claimed two golds with victory over France in the team sprint final and an individual title for Stefan Nimke in the 1km time trial ahead of Frenchman Mickael d'Almeida.

Australia also picked up a gold through Melissa Hoskins, who won the women's scratch race, which is not an Olympic event.

Spaniard Albert Torres Barcelo won the men's points race in the last final of the day. (Additional reporting by Tom Pilcher; Editing by Pritha Sarkar; To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)

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