LONDON (Reuters) - Britain demolished Australia and their own world record to defend the men’s Olympic team pursuit gold medal they won four years ago in Beijing and send the home crowd into a state of delirium on Friday.
The British quartet of Ed Clancy, Geraint Thomas, Steven Burke and Peter Kennaugh finished in three minutes, 51.659 seconds, almost three seconds clear of the silver medalists.
David Bowie’s “Heroes” blasted out over the tannoy as the home fans clapped the gold medalists on a lap of honor after they shaved almost a second off the previous record set on Thursday.
“There is so much talk of the pressure and expectation on the Britain camp to finally get here and do it is a great feeling,” Thomas, who had been struggling to be fit for the race having suffered with stomach cramps last week, told reporters.
”We have been thinking about this for so long getting up to that line in the best shape possible and now it is done...
“We got on the pace and that was it. Man after man we were phenomenal.”
It was the second time the quartet had trimmed the world record in two days after they lowered the bar in Thursday’s qualifying session.
“We were sure (we could go faster than on Thursday). We were amazed at the time we did in qualifying and when there’s another team pushing you always go faster again,” Kennaugh said.
He added that the 3:50 barrier could be next for the British team.
“A couple of us had niggles so if we were all four of us at the top of our game maybe we could,” he said.
Britain, roared on by an ear-splitting crowd including Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, scorched into an early lead over their opponents but as the race wore on the Australians started to chip away at the advantage.
A half a second lead was whittled down to just over a tenth as the crowd, sensing the Aussie fightback began to quieten and tension levels soared.
But just as the Australian quartet of Jack Bobridge, Glenn O‘Shea, Rohan Dennis and Michael Hepburn were cranking up for a fighting finish, the sting was taken out of them as the home team stepped up the pace.
With two laps to go the Australians knew they were beaten and seemed to ease off with a silver medal as consolation.
For Clancy and Thomas it was an Olympic double after the pair claimed the same title in Beijing alongside Paul Manning and Wiggins.
“It is the loudest I have ever experienced,” Thomas added. “I have cycled up Alpe d‘Huez in the Tour last year and that was a great experience but this was 10 times that.”
“The noise was just crazy. It hurts your ears sometimes and you really buzz off that.”
Having been soundly beaten, Australia had little choice but to be gracious.
“We came up against a team that’s the best in the world right now. They had exceptional rides. They got three world records,” Hepburn told reporters.
New Zealand beat Russia to the bronze medal in a time of 3:55.952.
Additional reporting by Kevin Liffey; editing by Ed Osmond