Colne Cyclone Steven Burke helped Great Britain claim a gold medal ride in the men’s team pursuit final at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships at Lee Valley VeloPark, London last Wednesday.
But Burke dropped out for the final itself, as GB finished second to old rivals Australia on Thursday.
Burke joined Sir Bradley Wiggins, Owain Doull and Jon Dibben to propel Britain to qualify as the fastest team for Thursday’s first round.
Then Andy Tennant came in for Dibben, taking the key starting role to bring Britain onto the pace, and the team earned the chance to go for gold after recording a time of three minutes 54.267 seconds.
But Burke, who claimed Olympic gold with the team at Lee Valley four years ag, was replaced by two-time Olympic champion Ed Clancy for the final – a decision coach, Heiko Salzwedel admitted might have cost the team gold.
Clancy has not had a loty of race action following a back operation, and Salzwedel said: “Perhaps Ed should have ridden the first round, 2,000 metres and no more, but I got swamped in that hype ‘Ed is our saviour’.
“It was an emotional decision and I should have been stronger with myself.
“Since his operation he has not ridden 4,000 metres from a standing start but we were all so excited to have him back.
“I had a lot of discussion with medical staff. Steven Burke was supposed to go for the final but he is struggling a little. I needed reassurance from him and I didn’t want to risk him in the final.”
Wiggins believes Britain can topple the Aussies in Rio at the Olympics, however: We knew we’d have a race on here and we’re going to have a race in Rio, but I think we’ll get over the line first in Rio.”
And Wiggins backed two-time Olympic team pursuit champion Clancy ro return to his best in time for the summer: “He is the strongest man in the team. He’s the one man that’s probably irreplaceable.
“Where he has come from, he’s the strongest man.
“I said a couple of weeks ago that he was the one man that was probably irreplaceable. We did gamble a bit with the semi-final putting Tennant in and Burke wasn’t quite on it, and that was to save Jon and Ed for the final.”
Burke remains in contention for Rio, and Salzwedel added: “If you want to go for a really fast ride, you go for guys like Burkie who can go out of the blocks like hell like he did in the semi-final – the time there for the first kilometre was one of the fastest I have seen. I’ve only been back 14 months and I still haven’t found the key to directing him to his maximum.”