Women's pursuit face uphill battle for bronze

UPHILL BATTLE: The women's team pursuit team will have to produce their best if they are to make the bronze medal race.
UPHILL BATTLE: The women's team pursuit team will have to produce their best if they are to make the bronze medal race.

Alison Shanks' chase for an elusive Olympic medal just got harder after an underwhelming opening ride by the New Zealand women's pursuit team.

Shanks, Lauren Ellis and Jaime Nielsen qualified fifth fastest at the Olympic velodrome today and need a big improvement to force their way into the bronze medal ride-off early tomorrow.

They clocked 3min 20.421sec for the 3km pursuit, 0.6sec behind fourth-placed Canada.

Great Britain cracked their own world record in a blistering time of 3.15.669, ahead of the United States (3.19.406), Australia (3.19.719) and Canada (3.19.816).

The top four teams face each other tomorrow and New Zealand need to try and produce a faster time than either of the two losers to force a bronze medal ride.

"Obviously it wasn't what we set out to do and we're a little bit disappointed with it in fifth. We've got to put that ride behind us and look at tomorrow and focus on making that bronze medal ride-off," Ellis said.

The New Zealand team reportedly rode 2sec faster in training in France during the past fortnight - which would have topped their best time - but couldn't back it up. They at least have a chance to make amends.

"We did a good ride a couple of weeks ago and that's what we were hoping to replicate. But it just didn't happen so we've got to move past it. Another day tomorrow, another ride," Ellis said.

Shanks finished fourth in her favoured individual pursuit in Beijing four years ago then was left gutted when it was scrapped from the Games programme.

The team pursuit is her only chance of a podium, having won Commonwealth Games (2010) and world championship titles (2012) in the IP.

Meanwhile, New Zealand sprinter Natasha Hansen finished fifth in the B final of the keirin.

The Invercargill air traffic controller made the semifinals after finishing second in her repechage, but couldn't finish top-three to book a spot in the final.

She also lines up in the women's sprint early on Monday.

Local heroine Victoria Pendleton continued Great Britain's absolute dominance of the track programme, winning the keirin final over Shuang Guo of China and Sze Wai Lee of Hong Kong. Pendleton's great rival, Australian Anna Meares, looked the favourite for the final but could only finish fifth.

Fairfax Media