Bring on the Olympics – Thomas
My world champion’s rainbow jersey is hanging up alongside Ed Clancy’s above the beds in our Melbourne hotel room.
This is a massive result for us as a team. It’s been a long while since we last won at the World Championships; the Aussies have had the better of us for the last few years. Even though this year is all about the Olympics and this is just a stepping-stone towards that, it’s still great to have come here and won.
We now have a strategy that means it will always be touch-and-go whether we can hold it together or not for the full duration of the race. We are definitely on the edge, every time. As you saw, we came off the pace a lot in our last lap but we learnt a lot from that.
Ed and Pete Kennaugh were completely spent towards the end and I maybe should have carried on going more than I did. I thought I was dying but Ed was already dead, he had no life left. Little things like that are good to go through now, even straight after a victory like this one. But to hang on and win with a world record was extra-special.
The first time we broke that world record, at the World Championships in Manchester before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, was just as amazing.
We broke our own record twice in Beijing later that year, but in Beijing we knew we were going to do it. We expected that to happen. In Manchester that wasn’t the case, and definitely not here. Only in the last few days of training did we realise we were travelling well and might just get close to it.
The thing is, it had been a pretty relaxed day. With qualifying not until around 4.30pm local time, we were up at 8.30 that morning, doing a bit on the turbo, a little warm-up at around 10am, a pre-race meal and then down to the track.
Our qualifying ride was two seconds faster than we’ve ever qualified before – the fastest qualifying time ever – and that was great for our confidence. Even though the Australians qualified just two tenths of a second behind us, we were still confident we would deliver in the final.
It was interesting how the Australian crowd inside the Hisense Arena were pretty much non-existent during our qualifying ride. That seemed a lot different to the way it was in London at the Track World Cup two months ago, when every team seemed to get cheered. But we love that rivalry.
Having beaten us in London, they really bigged this race up in the Aussie press. We were relaxed after qualifying, though. We knew we would improve on that London performance – we said as much straight after that race in February – so we spent the next couple of hours, between qualifying and the final, chilling out.
We had a meeting where our coach Shane Sutton went through some changes, and the decision was made to bring Andy Tennant out of the line-up in favour of Steven Burke. We had seen the split times from qualifying and Andy was coming off it a bit, he could accept that and see the evidence. It was the right decision to make, but obviously hard for him: he wanted to ride in the final, as everyone did. Nobody’s place in this team is secure, except Ed, because he’s so good at that start.
Getting onto that start line, you block everything out. And from there, all you can hear is the crowd going nuts one lap, then dead silent the next, then nuts again, and so on. It’s not hard to guess when the Aussies are up, and when you’re up.
It was a good half a lap after we crossed the line that I knew the result. When we finished I couldn’t see the scoreboard so I watched an Aussie rider in front of me – I don’t know which one – waiting for his reaction and listening for the crowd.
When I heard that collective sigh and saw the Aussie drop his head, I knew we’d got it. What an amazing feeling it is, an excitement I haven’t felt in a while. For it to be so close, then to win and to ride a world record lifts all that pressure that had been building and building since November.
London was tough, having them beat us as convincingly as they did, but we turned it around in probably the most exciting race I’ve ever been involved in – especially when I watched it back to see how close it was, because at the time we didn’t really know. To deal with that pressure and deliver what we wanted was amazing. Doing it in Australia’s back yard is the icing on the cake.
We can’t wait for the Olympics now. This result has made us even hungrier. I believed we could close the gap and beat Australia, but it’s one thing to believe that and another to come out and do it. Not only that, the next period is where we made a big leap forward in 2008 ahead of the Beijing Games. We have to do that again.
Winning in Melbourne reinforces the confidence and self-belief we need, and we are all gunning for London 2012. It can’t come quickly enough.