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Team sprint still problematic for Olympic champions

LONDON, Feb 18, 2012 (AFP) – A man one selection dilemma, combined with two hungry rivals, are threatening to hamper Britain’s bid to defend one of their most coveted Olympic titles in London this August. The three-man, three-lap team sprint is one of three speed events on the…

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LONDON, Feb 18, 2012 (AFP) – A man one selection dilemma, combined with two
hungry rivals, are threatening to hamper Britain’s bid to defend one of their
most coveted Olympic titles in London this August.

The three-man, three-lap team sprint is one of three speed events on the
Olympic track program alongside the individual sprint and the keirin.
And while Britain is expected to secure fewer than the seven gold medals
they won in Beijing — due mainly to the new one rider per nation per event
rule — the defense of its team sprint gold is already on shaky ground.

At the World Cup Olympic test Friday, reigning world champions Germany
humbled a French team that had not raced together since the worlds in 2011 as
Britain, who failed to make the final, took bronze.

While Britain raced to its best time in the event since 2009, man one
Ross Edgar’s first lap of 17.76sec was, crucially, inferior to the 17.32 of
German Rene Enders and the 17.55 of France’s Gregory Bauge.

Six months out from the Games, the position employed to such good effect in
Beijing by now retired Englishman Jamie Staff remains a problem for the hosts.
Edgar, with Jason Kenny on man two Sir Chris Hoy as anchor, admitted he had
underperformed: “I was far from happy.”

A fast first lap is crucial in the event, and Britain has already tested
Kenny, BMX rider Liam Phillips and Edgar in the position.
Staff, now a coach with USA team, believes Britain should shake things up
by bringing Kenny forward a notch: “Jason’s already gone out there and done
17.3 (seconds). I know he’s got potential.”

The next major Olympic stepping stone is the world championships, April
4-8 in Melbourne.

By then, Hoy and Kenny, both of whom, incidentally, are engaged in a
separate duel to secure the sole Olympic spot in the individual sprint, will
expect to see some fast start times.

“You can never write someone like that off,” Kenny said of Crampton, who
was man one when Britain took bronze at the 2011 world championships before
being moved up to silver following Bauge’s recent sanction for a doping rule
misdemeanor. “Hopefully we’ll get the fastest team.”

Unlike the individual sprint, held over two gruelling days of competition,
the two fastest teams in qualifying for the team sprint go straight to the
final.

Hence the need, as in the team pursuit, to get both rides right.

Hoy, whose three gold medals in the sprint, team sprint and keirin in
Beijing earned him a knighthood, admits Germany and France will be formidable
rivals.

But the Scot is quietly hoping their dilemma will soon be settled.
“To be within striking distance of the big two nations at the moment is
quite pleasing,” said the Scot.

“Matt (Crampton) is still very much in the hunt. I think the only thing we
can be sure of right now is us three tonight (Friday), and Matt.”
Edgar, meanwhile, knows his spot is far from secure. But after winning
keirin silver behind Hoy in Beijing, the Scot does not intend on giving up his
dream of a first Olympic gold easily.

“We’ll just have to wait and see,” he said. “But I’m not going to give it
up without a fight.”