Bradley Wiggins could win a second cycling gold medal as a member of the men's team pursuit quartet that on Sunday booked a place in Monday night's final in a straight 4,000m ride-off against Australia.
The hugely impressive British quartet of Wiggins, Steve Cummings, Paul Manning and Chris Newton chased down France in the first round, recording the second fastest time of 3mins 59.865secs enough to ensure at least a silver medal.
Australia, however, were by far the fastest in both qualification and the first round, easing past Lithuania to break their own world record with a time of 3:56.342. In an echo of Chris Hoy's performance in the 1km time trial on Friday, the British team will now probably need to break that record if they are to add a third cycling gold. “We know they [the Australians] are favourites but we want to get up there and be competitive,” said British team coach Simon Jones.
At least one of the Australian team, Brad McGee, will go into Monday's race looking for revenge after losing to Wiggins in Saturday's 4km individual pursuit final. Wiggins produced a wonderful display to beat McGee in a time of 4:16.304. So dominant was he that he caught McGee with several laps remaining, something which will have hurt the Australian's pride.
Going into the race with France in the third heat, the British team knew they had to beat the 4:02.374 time set by Spain and within two laps were already closing on their rivals. With two laps remaining they eased past the French quartet but will know that Australia the reigning world champions made up of Graeme Brown, Brett Lancaster, Luke Roberts and McGee will be a far tougher proposition. Germany and Spain will contest the bronze medal.
Earlier, Britain's Vicky Pendleton had failed to qualify for the quarter-finals of the women's sprint the race that looks like cat and mouse on bicycles as the two riders suss each other out for two laps, sometimes at a virtual standstill, before then sprinting at the bell.
The 20-year-old lost to Russia's Tamilla Abassova, who qualified fastest. However, Pendleton's team-mate Ross Edgar went through to the men's quarter-finals via a victory over Josiah Ng of Malawi and the highly rated Australian rider Sean Eadie in the repechage. Edgar has exceeded expectations to reach that stage and will need to work very hard to overcome the challenge of powerful Dutchman Theo Bos on Monday.
New Zealand's Sarah Ulmer won the women's individual pursuit final, beating Australia's Katie Mactier in a world record 3:24.537. Leontien Zijlaard van Moorsel of the Netherlands was third. Receiving her gold medal, Ulmer was treated to an impromptu haka from the crowd.
Britain's quartet may need to inspire similar fear if Wiggins is to add a second gold to his growing collection. More likely he will collect a silver and complete the set that began with a bronze in the team pursuit at Sydney four years ago.