Thomas certain Britain will put up strong cycling title defence at Games

Geraint Thomas is optimistic Great Britain's team pursuit squad have plenty of margin for improvement ahead of the London Olympic Games.

Qualifying in the four-man, four-kilometre event opens the Track Cycling World Championships in Melbourne on Wednesday, where Thomas and his team-mates will be able to measure their progress against hosts Australia.

Australia took pole position in February's Track World Cup in London, but despite that result Thomas believes Britain are building towards a successful defence of their Olympic title in August.

Unit: Great Britain's pursuit team of, from left, Geraint Thomas, Andy Tennant, Peter Kennaugh and Ed Clancy

Unit: Great Britain's pursuit team of, from left, Geraint Thomas, Andy Tennant, Peter Kennaugh and Ed Clancy

'It wasn't a shock,' Thomas said. 'It's time to worry a bit when you don't know why you're not firing on all cylinders.

'We know why and it's always been part of the plan. August 2 and 3 is when we want to be firing on all cylinders and at our best.

'We still wanted to win in London and do our best. It wasn't enough to win, but we took a lot from it and I think we're moving in the right direction pretty rapidly, which is good.'

Britain were all-conquering in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics, where Thomas combined with Ed Clancy, Bradley Wiggins and Paul Manning to take gold in three minutes 53.314 seconds, a world record which still stands.

Australia's London World Cup win in 3mins 54.615secs was the third fastest time in history, stating their intent, and they are favourites at the Hisense Arena in Melbourne.

Thomas, Clancy, Steven Burke and Kennaugh combined to post 3:56.330 in London, just 0.008secs behind the time set by the Olympic-winning quartet at the World Championships in Manchester in 2008, but it was an error-strewn display.

Burke is tomorrow set to be replaced by Andy Tennant - a late call-up after being omitted from the original squad - with Ben Swift, who is also in contention for an Olympic place, riding the non-Games scratch race.

Going for gold: Will the team be able to defend their Olympic title?

Going for gold: Will the team be able to defend their Olympic title?

While Thomas would dearly love to be part of the first British squad to win the world title since 2008, he knows London is the priority.

The 25-year-old from Cardiff added: 'We want to go and win it; that's what we'll try to do.

'But it's just another little marker on the way to London.

'It's important in the fact it's another race to get together, so we can push ourselves and learn more.

'In London I nearly crashed; there were a lot of things that happened there. You don't really get to that stage in training, not very often anyway.

'It would be good to just race the other teams again and see where everybody's at. We're going to have moved on and I'm sure everybody else will have as well.'

Thomas does not believe there is a major psychological advantage ahead of the Games for the team which claims the world champions' rainbow jerseys this week, with Russia and New Zealand also vying for the title.

Thomas said: 'It would be a massive buzz, but it's not the be-all and end-all.

'It's 100% down to us what we do and we can't affect what the other teams do. We're just going to focus on ourselves, keep trying hard.

Focus: Thomas says the team will be trying their best

Focus: Thomas says the team will be trying their best

'We'll go faster, it just depends how fast they go as well. If we ended up fourth in the worlds and winning the Games, I'd take that.'

The team pursuit is the first final of the evening, with Victoria Pendleton and Jess Varnish hoping to feature in the second.

The British duo clocked a world record of 32.754secs in the two-woman, two-lap team sprint in London, stunning defending world champions Anna Meares and Kaarle McCulloch of Australia.

Varnish has devoted herself to the starting lap position and a world title would prove her progress.

The corresponding men's event, over three laps, with three riders, follows - with Britain already springing a surprise.

Olympic champions Jason Kenny and Sir Chris Hoy have been named in the line-up alongside unknown quantity Philip Hindes.

The 19-year-old was born in Germany to a British father and is a specialist starter - filling a position Britain have struggled with since the retirement of Beijing gold medal winner Jamie Staff. Matt Crampton is a reserve.

Britain have failed to fire in the event since Beijing and last claimed the world title in 2005.

However, if Hindes performs well, rivals Germany, France and Australia will be worried and Hoy could claim an 11th world title in his distinguished career.

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