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Page last updated at 23:47 GMT, Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Great Britain finds a rider for the future

By Chris Boardman
BBC Sport analyst and Olympic track cycling champion

The British team of Steven Burke, Peter Kennaugh, Andrew Tennant and Sam Harrison on thier way to a bronze medal in the Men's Team Pursuit
Harrison and his colleagues earned bronze on Wednesday

Great Britain have discovered 18-year-old Sam Harrison as a rider for the future.

Wednesday was the first time he has had to play at the highest level.

He has shown great promise before, but this was the acid test and he performed admirably.

Two bronze medals for Britain, in the men's team sprint and team pursuit events, is below expectation and not what they came here for - they wanted to be on the top step of the podium.

But the end of Wednesday's racing will see the British team write the day off and start afresh on Thursday, knowing that Sam is undoubtedly one of the first day's bright spots.

He was called in to race the men's team pursuit final after Ed Clancy, the unofficial anchor man of that team, was forced to pull out. That in itself was a big step for him.

It excited me to see Sam go straight from that team pursuit final, helping Britain to bronze past New Zealand, into the scratch race. For half of that race he really had a go, too.

Sam retired halfway through the race but only 11 people finished it, so be careful not to read too much into that. If you are not in the shake-up for medals then there is no point in finishing the scratch race; he called it a day - as half of the field did.

But at the start we saw flashes of real brilliance. He is a very good bike handler and can place himself where he wants to be.

This time, he didn't quite have the engine to go with it.

He also did a lot of work, by which I mean pulling back quite a few breakaways. When that kind of pressure is on, it leaves you very little chance to recover.

There is still plenty of time, and talent, to play with. Nobody British won on Wednesday but they were close, within shooting distance

Chris Boardman

All of that is good experience for him to be getting at this stage. The team will have a video of his race and I can guarantee they will pull it apart. He will learn from that, and there are subtleties for him to work on.

There is still time for him to get into the team for the Olympics, and he has a particularly good shot at a place in the six-event omnium, which is a new Olympic discipline for London 2012 and one in which Clancy is currently the world champion.

The scratch race is not an Olympic event in itself, but it is one of events in the omnium and Harrison has a real opportunity there.

He is close enough to an Olympic place that it will be decided over the next season, so pay attention to the World Cups at the end of this year and the next World Championships, in Melbourne early in 2012.

Sam's name is definitely in the mix now, but only as one of a number of names.

People talk about how Jason Kenny came through the ranks so close to the Beijing Games, and this time the likes of Peter Kennaugh and Andy Tennant - who came up from the junior ranks, and is now a major player in the senior team - are some of the new talent. Their potential may not fully emerge until the next World Cup season, later this year.

There is still plenty of time, and talent, to play with. Nobody British won on Wednesday but they were close, within shooting distance.

The depth of competition in track cycling has improved, and the team have faced issues with illness and injury. A few weeks ago, we saw in Manchester that the capability is still there within this great squad - they are not happy to pick up bronze medals, you could see that as they climbed off the podium.

Sometimes in sport, though, those unpleasant experiences do you good. They make you re-evaluate your performance and they may encourage this team to take risks.

In 2007, rather than trying to work out how not to fall apart, the British team pursuiters decided to go to the edge and learn how to live there. It was a step forward, taking some big risks. Maybe the same will happen again.

Out of bronze-medal nights like Wednesday can come some value.

Chris Boardman was speaking to BBC Sport's Ollie Williams.



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see also
GB open with double world bronze
23 Mar 11 |  Cycling
GB youngsters take to world stage
21 Mar 11 |  Cycling
GB name star trio in Worlds squad
14 Mar 11 |  Cycling
Wiggins returns in strong GB team
29 Jan 11 |  Cycling
Harrison into Delhi 'unknown'
15 Jul 10 |  Cycling


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