Day one of the Olympic track cycling at the Izu velodrome will give an instant idea of how Team GB will fare in the two flagship disciplines, the four-rider, 4,000m team pursuits for men and women.
The quartets have been dominant in recent Games, but with barely any international track racing in the past 12 mesi, form is almost impossible to predict in the sport that has turned into Team GB’s medal banker. At the last world championship, in Berlin in 2020, GB managed only seventh in the medal table with one gold medal, but the consensus is that an extra 12 months’ preparation will have been put to good use.
Negli ultimi anni, the women’s team pursuit have been pushed hard by other English-speaking nations: US, Australia and Canada, while the men’s side has moved from a two-horse “Ashes” race between GB and Australia to a more diverse contest, with New Zealand, Italy and Denmark also in the mix. The men’s and women’s world records have dived steadily, with the men now heading towards 3min 45sec.
The team pursuits allows two of GB’s Olympic cycling greats to step forward: Ed Clancy has a chance of anchoring the men’s team at a fourth Games for a fifth medal, mentre Laura Kenny – who has four gold medals, making her Britain’s most successful female Olympian – begins a campaign that could have her taking part in three disciplines.
Kenny’s chance to take medal number five comes on day two when the other half of Team GB’s golden couple, Kenny’s husband, Jason, has his first outing in the three-man team sprint. This will be his fourth Games and he has the chance to push his gold medal tally to nine. He is now the veteran of the sprint squad at 33 years of age and is joined by debutants Jack Carlin and Ryan Owens.
There is one final on day three – the men’s team pursuit – but the sprint racing gets going with Jason Kenny defending his match sprint title. The men’s match sprint is a three-day competition and continues on day four with the other finals the men’s omnium, where Matt Walls or Ollie Wood are the most likely selections for the multidiscipline event.
If Jason Kenny’s match sprint tournament has gone to plan he will be in action for the final on day five, when Laura Kenny also returns to the fray, partnering Scotland’s Katie Archibald for the frenetic Madison; Archibald managed silver at the world championship in 2018 with the now retired Emily Nelson. Katy Marchant has her best chance of a medal, hoping to at least repeat her Rio bronze in the women’s match sprint.
The track racing reaches a climax over the weekendwith the men’s Madison on the Saturday – Wood and Walls the likely British entry – while Jason Kenny begins the defence of his keirin title. Sunday brings three finals, with both Kennys likely to be involved: the men’s keirin concludes, Laura Kenny will go for her third consecutive omnium title and with a fair wind Marchant could be involved in the women’s match sprint finals.