BERLIN – Once again, the Americans will head to the Olympics as the gold-medal favorite in the women's team pursuit.
The question now is whether they can finish the job.
The quartet of Chloe Dygert, Jennifer Valente, Emma White and Lily Williams roared to the world championship at the Berlin Velodrome on Thursday, easily beating back the reigning Olympic champions from Britain. Their winning time of 4 minutes, 11.235 seconds stamped them as the team to beat at the Tokyo Games later this summer.
“We've had quite the journey in the last couple of years,” White said. “This is good but it's not over with the Olympics this summer, but we're excited.”
In other events on Day 2 of the track cycling world championships, Dutch rider Harrie Lavreysen added to his team sprint gold from Wednesday by capturing the keirin title. And the Danish men's pursuit team of Rasmus Pedersen, Frederik Rodenberg Madsen, Lasse Norman Hansen and Julius Johnson broke their own world record in winning gold.
Dygert and Valente are back from the American team that won gold at the 2016 world championships ahead of the Rio Games. But along with Sarah Hammer and the late Kelly Catlin, the team fell to their longtime rivals in the Olympic finals, relegated to a silver medal that was both rewarding and disappointing.
The U.S. went out hot on Thursday, putting 1.75 seconds into the British team of Elinor Barker, Katie Archibald, Eleanor Dickinson and Neah Evans by the first 1,000 meters. The advantage increased to more than 2 1/2 seconds by the midway point of the race, when the British squad dropped one of its riders and pressed on with just three.
The Americans lost a few tenths of a second down the stretch, but wound up winning by 1.894 seconds.
“It's always special to win,” said Dygert, the road time trial world champion who will be favored to win gold in individual pursuit later in the week. “You try not to look at who the competition is. We run our race and that's what we did.”
The bronze medal went to Germany, which hung together to the finish as the Canadians broke apart in the final laps.
The keirin was shaken up in the semifinals, when reigning Olympic champion Jason Kenny failed to advance. That made the path easier for Lavreysen, who has been part of three straight world champion sprint teams. He went three-wide entering the final lap and held off silver medalist Yuta Wakimoto of Japan and Azizulhasni Awang of Malaysia.
“I can't really believe it. Yesterday a world title, today a world title. It's insane,” Lavreysen said. “I really didn't do a lot in the beginning, but in the semifinal I really picked up my pace and I had a big plan for the final and it worked out perfectly.”
There was little drama in the men's pursuit final after the Danish team twice broke the world record in previous rounds, sending it into the finals against New Zealand a heavy favorite. Denmark had reached the same straight as the Kiwis with about 500 meters to go, and the team crossed the finish line in 3:44.672.
Italy beat reigning world champion Australia in the bronze-medal race.
“I just think we have an amazing team with the four of us, and our support team. They make it all possible,” Madsen said before accepting his gold medal. “I think they have even more belief in us than we have in ourselves.”