BERLIN (Reuters) - Denmark’s men’s team pursuit squad installed themselves as hot favourites for the Tokyo Olympics as they powered to gold at the world championships with a third world record in little over 24 hours on Thursday.
The quartet of Rasmus Pedersen, Lasse Hansen, Julius Johansen and Frederik Rodenberg Madsen once again proved in a class of their own as they destroyed New Zealand in the final.
Denmark had shattered reigning champions Australia’s world record in qualifying on Wednesday, then shaved more time off in the first round.
There was much more in the tank, however, as the Danes roared around Berlin’s velodrome, almost reeling in the New Zealanders to clock 3:44.672 for the 4,000 metres event, 1.5 seconds faster than their record on Wednesday.
Only a smattering of their countrymen were present to witness Denmark’s first team pursuit world title since 2009, but they should have been forgiven for belting out the old soccer classic “we are red, we are white, we are Danish dynamite.”
Britain, who have won the last three Olympic titles in the blue riband event, and Australia, who were outclassed here in the bronze medal race by a Filippo Ganna-inspired Italy team, know they have work to do in the next five months.
“We knew we were going to have to break the world record to win here, but to do 3:44, it’s just madness to be honest,” Rodenberg Madsen told reporters.
“We never dreamed about this but hard work pays off. But to win the Olympics we will have to go even faster. Maybe 3:42 to win the gold. We have some small gains to make, but we know Australia, New Zealand, Italy and Britain do too.”
To put their exploits in Berlin into perspective, Britain’s gold-medal winning time at the Rio Games four years ago was 3:50.265, almost six seconds slower.
The world record Britain set at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 was nearly nine seconds slower than the new mark.
“They have pushed the bar through the roof,” New Zealand’s silver medallist Aaron Gate said. “Massive hats off to the Danes, they were in another league.”
There was no world record in the women’s final as the United States, powered by Chloe Dygert, beat Britain to gold.
Britain’s four-time Olympic champion Laura Kenny made a surprising appearance in the first round, having said she would skip team pursuit as she recovers from a broken shoulder.
Kenny sat out the final though and the American quartet of Dygert, Jennifer Valente, Emma White and Lily Williams were too strong as they reclaimed the title they won from 2016 to 2018.
Dygert was not getting too excited though, saying the real target was to take Britain’s Olympic title in Tokyo.
“This is great, this is an accomplishment,” world road time trial champion Dygert, who wore her distinctive pink socks and shoes, said. “But we have way more to do. This is a stepping stone. The Olympics is what matters.”
Germany took the bronze medal.
While the Danes left the Berlin crowd in awe, the Dutch continued their great start to the championships as Harrie Lavreysen followed up his gold in the men’s team sprint to win the keirin, edging out Japan’s Yuta Wakimoto who took silver.
Malaysia’s ‘pocket rocket’ Azizulhasni Awang bagged the bronze, to add to his previous gold, silver and two bronzes.
The day’s other medal went to Belarus with Yauheni Karaliok winning the men’s scratch race, edging Italy’s Simone Consonni and Spain’s Sebastian Mora Vedri.
Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond, Ken Ferris and Pritha Sarkar