LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s rivals were once again left to pick up the crumbs as Jason Kenny brushed aside a baffled Gregory Bauge in the Olympic sprint on Monday to give the host nation their fifth track cycling gold -- and there should be more to come.
The host nation have now won five of seven titles and look firmly on track to add three more on Tuesday after Laura Trott surged ahead in the women’s omnium after three of six events.
British cycling’s poster girl Victoria Pendleton advanced unchallenged into the individual sprint semi-finals en route to a likely final showdown with arch rival Anna Meares of Australia.
Given her sheer speed, just like the baby-faced Kenny, she is now the overwhelming favorite.
With Chris Hoy also fancied in the keirin event, Britain are on course to win eight titles out of 10 events and to better the tally of seven they set in Beijing.
The French triple world champion Bauge, who was the overwhelming favorite for the individual sprint coming into the Games, was comprehensively beaten by Kenny 2-0 in a much-anticipated final.
Unable to match the Briton’s pure speed, Bauge was lost for words after France grabbed their third silver medal on the track after finishing second in the team sprint and the men’s omnium.
“They raised their level just like they know (how to). I see what’s happening. I was laughing on the podium. It’s the same song we’ve been hearing for three days. It starts to...,” Bauge said wistfully tailing off.
The Frenchman was so lost for an explanation that he could not resist asking Kenny himself.
“How did you prepare?” Bauge asked the Briton, who had never beaten him before, in front of bemused reporters.
Kenny replied: ”It’s not like we did anything different. The Olympics was our main goal and objective.
“As an athlete we always try hard and when you get to an Olympics that’s when all our training comes together,” added the triple Olympic champion, who had been selected at the expense of Beijing champion Chris Hoy.
When asked why he was so keen to question Kenny, Bauge replied: “Because he beat me. I prepared for the Olympics in my own way so I was curious to know how he prepared his Games.”
French technical director Isabelle Gautheron told Reuters: “They’re just a class above. Let’s get back to work for the Rio Games.”
While the Olympics seem to be Britain’s main goal on the track, Bauge said France and other countries cannot afford to sacrifice the world championships in order to be ready just for the Games.
“They don’t have the same policy. We French, cannot sacrifice a world championship. Otherwise what do we do? We’re already not so well known,” he said.
“If we don’t get medals in the world championships, people forget about us. We succeed at the world championships but when it comes to the biggest stage, we’re second. We’re Poulidors,” he added, referring to former rider Raymond Poulidor, who finished second in the Tour de France on three occasions.
“I have nothing against Poupou (Poulidor) but I was born to win.”
France, who claimed four Olympic titles in Atlanta in 1996 and another four in Sydney four years later, have only three silver medals to show from London.
Australia, another powerhouse of track cycling, have only claimed a silver and two bronze medals and Germany, apart from the gold they won after China were relegated from their women’s team sprint final, only have one bronze.
“We don’t talk to each other because the competition is not over but you can see from the look on their faces that they (Australia and Germany) are annoyed,” added Gautheron.
Trott, returns to the track on Tuesday, the last day of action at the Velodrome, to try to secure a second gold medal after she channeled the energy of a raucous crowd to surge ahead in the omnium by winning two of Monday’s three events.
The 20-year-old Trott, the new face of British track cycling after she claimed gold in the team pursuit, prevailed in the 250-metre flying lap and the elimination race.
She is tied on points at the head of the standings with American Sarah Hammer. The duo lead Australian Annette Edmondson by five points with the 3km pursuit, the 10km scratch race and the 500m time trial to come on Tuesday.
“I feel really strong. I did a lot of work for the group races and hope for the best for tomorrow now,” Trott told reporters.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis