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Page last updated at 23:22 GMT, Thursday, 24 March 2011

World title poses Olympic dilemma

World Track Championships
Venue: Apeldoorn, Netherlands Dates: 23-27 March
Coverage: Watch and listen live across the BBC - What to watch and where to watch it

Great Britain's team pursuit team of Wendy Houvenaghel, Laura Trott and Dani King

Team pursuit gold for GB's women

Jill Douglas
By Jill Douglas
BBC Sport cycling reporter in Apeldoorn

Thursday was a tremendous evening for the entire British team, but for the women in particular.

We were unsure what to expect from the British women's pursuit team, simply because they are untested at this level, whereas we knew what the men could achieve on Wednesday - but they didn't deliver it.

They were disappointed, even taking into consideration the fact that Ed Clancy was not at 100% and, when you lose someone of his quality and class, you are always up against it.

If the men did not have the 'A team' out because of that, then on Thursday we had no idea what kind of team the women were putting out - but now we do, it is a world title-winning pursuit team.

It is successful because it combines an experienced campaigner in Wendy Houvenaghel, someone who knows the big occasion, with incredible youngsters in Dani King and Laura Trott.

King, 20, has a sprinter's head but the talent for the team pursuit. She was spotted by the Great Britain team after her performance at the 2010 Nationals, and they wasted no time in bringing her into the squad. Trott can now wear a rainbow jersey at the age of 18.

But this success poses a lot more questions of the British selectors. Where does Jo Rowsell, so often Houvenaghel's team-mate, fit into this? Will we see rower-turned-track cyclist Rebecca Romero again? Then there is Para-cycling star Sarah Storey to throw into the mix.

The challenge for Britain's coaches is to make sure the best three riders are on the line in London in just over a year's time.

This time around, those coaches had clearly done their sums. Choosing this trio did not represent a risk, it will have been a calculated decision and one which paid off. They knew this team was capable of that performance.

Every other nation will be taking notice now. None of them will have seen King or Trott ride the pursuit like that. Now they will be thinking: who else have Britain got up their sleeve?

In the women's team sprint, Victoria Pendleton and Jess Varnish rode to silver but, looking at both the men and women so far, neither would say they are the finished article.

Jess Varnish and Victoria Pendleton
Varnish is in pole position to become lead-out rider at the Olympics

In that event, Australia have two of the very best in Anna Meares and Kaarle McCulloch. They have helped Varnish to realise that if she is going to be at the 2012 Olympics, she must bury herself in becoming the best lead-out rider possible, just as Jamie Staff did prior to Beijing 2008.

Staff gave up all his individual ambitions to concentrate on giving his team the best start, and it is hugely important that Varnish qualified the team with a sub 19-second time.

The challenge for her is to back that up by delivering a second sub 19-second performance in the same day. If she does that and gets close to Meares - remember, Pendleton is stronger than McCulloch - Britain can deliver a gold-medal performance.

Pendleton is now right back on her game. When I spoke to her after the final, she felt she has the speed she lacked in Manchester in February. She is a winner and I am encouraged by her performance.

Lastly, Sir Chris Hoy looked fantastic. The man is an animal: he came out here in the men's sprint and he wanted it, so into Friday's semi-finals he goes.

But the performance of the day was a mature, powerful ride from Hoy's sprint team-mate - and rival - Jason Kenny, against Australia's Shane Perkins in his quarter-final.

Kenny won the first of the three heats by getting a jump on Perkins, but the latter had looked so strong all day and it was no surprise when he won the second.

I reckon, at that point, one or two doubters in the crowd will have thought Kenny would struggle to beat Perkins again. But he didn't beat Perkins in that third leg, he absolutely hammered him. Other sprinters will have watched that and taken note.

Rule changes ahead of London 2012 mean there will only be one place for a British rider in the individual sprint come the Olympic Games - and what an interesting choice that will be. I'm glad I'm no part of that process.

On Wednesday, the three of them - Hoy, Kenny and Matt Crampton - lined up together in the team sprint. On Thursday, they went up against each other. On Friday, Hoy and Kenny will look to knock seven bells out of each other in the final four. It will make for an interesting day.

Jill Douglas was speaking to BBC Sport's Ollie Williams.

Pendleton misses out on sprint gold

Pendleton and Varnish miss out on team sprint gold

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see also
GB trio capture team pursuit gold
24 Mar 11 |  Cycling
GB open with double world bronze
23 Mar 11 |  Cycling
GB finds a rider for the future
23 Mar 11 |  Cycling

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