Andy Hodge and Pete Reed surge to trials win in pairs
Hodge and Reed claimed their fifth trials' win (pic by Peter Spurrier)
Pete Reed and Andy Hodge underlined their belief they are the best pair in the world with an emphatic win in selection trials in Belgium.
"We're sure this pair can beat anyone out there," said Hodge of the duo who won Olympic gold together in a four but took 2009 world silver in the pair.
Scot Katherine Grainger won her ninth successive annual trial and must decide whether to stay in her single scull.
Zac Purchase, out last year through illness, won the lightweight event.
Andrea Dennis won the lightweight women's final from 2008 Olympian Hester Goodsell in blustery conditions in Hazewinkel, with several of her other rivals ill or injured.
And Alan Campbell, from Coleraine, secured his sixth trials win from Matthew Wells, with 1992 Olympic champion Greg Searle a disappointing eighth.
Searle, who is bidding to return from a 10-year retirement to compete at London 2012 at the age of 40, had set his sights on finishing seventh at the trials, which pit the entire squad against each other in either pairs or singles.
Seventh spot could have secured him a place in one of the sculling crews for the season, which starts with a World Cup event in Slovenia on 28 May and culminates with October's World Championships in New Zealand.
Searle could not reach his target of seventh (pic by Peter Spurrier)
"While I'm disappointed with the ultimate result here, I'm satisfied that I'm continuing to make progress", he said.
"I've demonstrated in the last few months that I can train and that I can race without falling over."
Further testing will now take place before the whole Great Britain squad is announced on 18 May.
Hodge and Reed have now won the annual trials together on five occasions. Last year they could not overcome the New Zealand pair of Hamish Bond and Eric Murray, although they came closest in a thrilling world final.
At trials, they were six seconds ahead of their nearest rivals Matt Langridge and Richard Egington, who were world champions in the coxless four last year.
Welshman Tom James, who has returned from a year off after winning an Olympic title alongside Hodge and Reed in 2008, was a surprise third with partner Tom Ransley, ahead of Alex Gregory and Alex Partridge.
Grainger, 34, who decided to continue her career for another four years in a bid to follow three successive Olympic silvers with gold in 2012, won a surprise world silver in a single scull last August.
She has already hinted that she may feature in a larger boat this season, and that could be a double scull as Anna Watkins (formerly Bebington) was the only sculler within 15 second of the Scot.
"Winning here marks the end of winter training and it's exciting now to move onto the next phase. I truly don't know what that will be, which makes it exciting," said Grainger.
"There are several people to talk to about what comes next."
Grainger's former Olympic crew-mate Debbie Flood finished sixth, having just returned to full-time training following a year working in the prison service.
Purchase, who missed the 2009 season with a virus, dominated the lightweight singles event. Mark Hunter, with whom he won Olympic gold in the double scull, was absent because of illness.
Campbell imposed himself once again on the men's openweight singles event, winning from Matthew Wells.
The remaining four finalists all competed in the quadruple scull last season, having been developed through the "Start" scheme, which aims to spot athletes in schools and universities with a suitable body shape for the sport, then coaches them up to international level.
"It's getting harder every year as the standard in the men's sculling group is going up all the time. So I'm quite relieved to have won, to be honest," said Campbell.
Olympic pair Olivia Whitlam and Louisa Reeve recovered from a sub-par semi-final to win their final and coach Paul Thompson must now decide whether to keep them in that crew or use them to bolster the women's eight.
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