Ashes showdown for gold in team pursuit as Bradley Wiggins hits the velodrome

Australia have set up a mouth-watering gold medal showdown with Bradley Wiggins’ England quartet on Thursday as they look to get their campaign at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome off to a flying start.

In a big opening day the country’s flagbearer and four-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist Anna Meares will be the hot favourite in the women’s 500m time trial and there are medals up for grabs in the men’s team sprint, but the men’s team pursuit final will be eagerly anticipated.

The world champion Australian team were the fastest qualifiers of the six competing nations, with Jack Bobridge, Luke Davison, Alex Edmondson and Glenn O’Shea piloting them into the gold medal playoff in a time of 3.57.939.

England’s Wiggins, Ed Clancy, Steven Burke and Andy Tennant (3.59.249) pipped the other major challenger New Zealand, who blew an opportunity to cancel the Ashes-themed rivalry in the final when a second rider lost pace on the final lap.

The result ensures a gripping late afternoon session in Glasgow’s east end, with all eyes on four-time Olympic gold medallist and 2012 Tour de France winner Wiggins in his return to track cycling for the first time in six years.

It is the 34-year-old’s only event in Glasgow, and he is seeking a first Commonwealth Games gold, and there was a noticeable lift in the first-day crowd as he shot to the front of England’s quartet on Thursday.

Australia, however, are keen to play spoiler for Wiggins and Clancy, who won team pursuit gold together at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

They have their own star rider, Bobridge, back in the pursuit train at a major competition after a spell away from the track riding professionally for Orica-GreenEDGE and then Belkin.

It’s the 25-year-old’s first international competition since London 2012, where he claimed silver in the team pursuit, but his time on the road did not appear to have slowed him down one bit in qualifying on Thursday.

Elsewhere on the track, Australian sprinter Matthew Glaetzer claimed a Commonwealth Games record of 9.779sec in qualifying of the men’s sprint, and is through to Friday’s quarter-finals.

Five riders including Glaetzer’s compatriot Peter Lewis went under fellow Australian Shane Perkins’ mark of 10.058 from Delhi in 2010 and Lewis also reached the final eight safely.

England’s triple Olympic champion Jason Kenny scraped into the quarter-finals via the repechage.

Perkins, who sat out the individual sprint, will contest the team sprint later on Thursday, while in an all-Australian playoff for bronze in the women’s Para-sport sprint B tandem Felicity Johnson and Holly Takos will take on Brandie O’Connor and Breanna Hargrave.

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