Personal best not enough for women's pursuiters
Watching two rival teams contest the Olympic bronze medal race after slashing 1.6 seconds off their national record left the New Zealand women's pursuit team with a bitter taste today.
Alison Shanks, Lauren Ellis and Jaime Nielsen finished fifth with a victory over the Netherlands in a ride-off, after a slick 3min 18.514sec wasn't enough to force them past Canada or Australia and into the bronze medal contest.
Great Britain's dominant team broke the 3km world record for the third time in two days, a sizzling 3.14.051, to beat the United States by nearly 6sec in the gold medal ride, while Canada pipped Australia for bronze.
It was a disappointing day for New Zealand at the velodrome, with Shane Archbold sitting seventh at the halfway point of the omnium and facing a battle to reach the podium, and Eddie Dawkins missing out on the last-eight in the sprint.
Shanks felt the women pursuiters could hold their heads high after improving markedly on their poor 3.20.421 in the qualifying rounds.
"It's pretty hard to stand here and watch those medal ride offs. Obviously that was our aim coming into the campaign. We knew that gold was going to be a big stretch but that bronze was really within reach," Shanks said.
"We had a pretty good pathway this morning to make that bronze medal ride-off and we laid that time down in our first ride and it was a PB for us but it just so happened that a lot of other countries out there are going quicker. So there's not much we can do about that."
New Zealand were left hoping one of the losers in the top-four ride-offs would ride a slower time than them to snare a bronze medal ride, but it didn't happen.
Australia clocked 3.16.953 in losing to the United States (3.16.853) and Canada recorded 3.17.454 in losing to Great Britain who continued the host nation's absolute dominance of the Olympic track programme.
The women's team pursuit is a new event at the Olympics after Shanks' top event, the individual pursuit, was scrapped from the programme. And the times keep tumbling and the records keep getting broken.
"It's hard. It's such a new event so there's still so many gains to be made. It's still working out how to ride the event and coming up with new strategies. It keeps it exciting but at the same time it's very challenging to try and keep up with everyone.
"It has been difficult but the fact is we haven't taken backward steps, we've still been progressing, it's just that the rest of the world has progressed a little faster. That's the reality."
Archbold was left rueing an ordinary points race, also his problem when finishing fifth at the world championships in April.
The Timaru rider raised hopes of being a medal contender after he finished second in the flying lap, he opening event of the six-discipline omnium.
But he barely featured in the 30km points race, registering just three points from the 12 sprints to be 14th.
He completed day one with a sixth placing in the elimination race, and an official warning for pushing out, leaving him seventh overall on 23 points.
Frenchman Bryan Coquard leads on 10 points, ahead of Italian Elia Viviani (13) and Australia's world champion Glenn O'Shea on 14.
Nine points off the bronze medal position, Archbold can't afford any more slip ups in the individual pursuit, scratch and time trial tomorrow.
Dawkins, meanwhile, qualified ninth-fastest of 17 riders in the men's sprint with a time of 10.201sec. But he lost his first round contest against Nicholas Phillip of Trinidad and Tobago, then in the repechage couldn't pick up Hersony Canelon of Venezuela.