With the women’s team sprint confirmed for its Olympic debut in the London 2012 programme, Great Britain came into February 2011’s Manchester Track World Cup continuing to look for the pairing they would use for the home games.
Victoria Pendleton and Shanaze Reade - team sprint world champions in 2007 and 2008 - were understandably considered the favourites of the two Great Britain teams entered for the event, but it would be the emerging talent of British Cycling that would prove to be the surprise package.
Becky James and Jess Varnish (aged 19 and 20 respectively at the time) were part of Olympic Academy Programme, but in qualifying their relative inexperience at an international level proved immaterial. A time of 33.581 elevated the duo to the bronze medal ride whilst Pendleton and Reade only managed eighth in 34.001.
The young pair would miss out on bronze against a powerful French line-up of Clara Sanchez and Sandie Clair - nevertheless their performance earmarked them as the future of British female sprinting. Varnish, of course, would go onto London with Victoria Pendleton with an agonising ending in the Olympic Velodrome, James named as a reserve.
“We knew it was going to be a tough field, me and Jess really wanted to get a second ride. We’ve bettered both our times,” James said at the time.
With Queen Vic’s retirement after the Games, Varnish and James are now Great Britain’s most senior female sprinters, a testament to their ability given their lack of years. Both will seek the keirin and individual sprint spots for the Rio Olympics, but together build on a partnership which has previously demonstrated its potential.
They will travel to the Cali Track World Cup to start to their international season and it would be of little surprise to see them appear at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome in November.