Australia's Luke Durbridge, Rohan Dennis, Alexander Edmondson and Michael Hepburn compete during the Men's Team Pursuit qualification round at the UCI Track Cycling World Cup, a test event for the London 2012 Olympic Games, at the Velodrome in the Olympic Park in London. Australia's quest to regain the Olympic team pursuit crown was given momentum after they qualified fastest.
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
OLYMPIC PARK: Australia's quest to regain the Olympic team pursuit crown was given momentum after they qualified fastest in the World Cup Olympic test event here Thursday to secure a final against Britain.
Raced at the new state of the art Olympic velodrome, this weekend's events are being seen as a crucial step towards eventual success in London this summer.
Britain, the Olympic champions and world record holders in 3:53.314, had brought the roof down on the 6000-seat venue by virtually securing their place in the final in 3mn 58.446sec.
However the Australians, inspired by world record holder Jack Bobridge, set out their stall by clocking 3min 57.885sec for the 16-lap event.
It silenced all but a handful of enthusiastic Aussie fans trackside, and gave Bobridge faith in teammates Rohan Dennis, Alexander Edmondson and Michael Hepburn.
"We can't complain with that ride, it was smooth, fast and in control the whole way," said Bobridge, a pivotal part of the team that has won the past two world championship titles.
"We wanted to race (against) the Brits (in the final). Stirring each other up is always fun," he joked.
"But seriously, it's always good to race the Brits on their home track and it was good to get a hit-out on the track."
Welshman Geraint Thomas has put his ambitions on the road on hold this year as he concentrates on winning a second successive gold in the event.
But, ahead of seeing the Aussies pip them to top spot, he admitted he had hoped for a slightly faster performance.
"I think we did a decent ride there, we're a bit disappointed with the time. We're always striving for more," said Thomas.
"Technically we wanted to come here and go through the process and I think we did that. We'll analyse that and now we've got two more days to iron out those factors we can improve on."
The men's final will be held on Sunday, while New Zealand will meet Belgium in the match for the bronze medal.
Canada, meanwhile, caused a minor surprise in qualifying fastest from the women's 3km event to book a gold medal ride-off with reigning world champions Britain.
Led by two-time omnium world champion Tara Whitten, Canada came close to threatening the USA's world record of 3min 19.569sec on their way to a new national record of 3:20.785.
Australia's time of 3:21.426 was also a new national record, but was pipped by Britain's Wendy Houvenaghel, Laura Trott and Joanna Rowsell in 3:21.370 meaning Australia now meet the Netherlands for the bronze.
For Northern Irishwoman Houvenaghel, a silver medal winner in Beijing when the individual pursuit was still an Olympic event, this weekend provides another crucial chance to race the 250-metre track in race conditions.
"It's a really lovely facility.... being here just gives us the opportunity to get a little bit more experience of the track," said Houvenaghel, who is more used to the "cigar-shaped" track in Manchester.
"Every velodrome is slightly different. This velodrome is unique and the more time we spend on it the better, because it's slightly different to the one we normally train on.
"It's more of an oval shape as opposed to a cigar shape."