Germany took almost a full three seconds off Britain’s record.
Defending champions Great Britain qualified second fastest in the women’s team pursuit after watching Germany smash the world record they set in winning gold in Rio five years ago.
Germany took almost a full three seconds off Britain’s record as their quartet of Franziska Brausse, Lisa Brennauer, Lisa Klein and Mieke Kroeger stopped the clock at four minutes 07.307secs early in the session.
The British quartet of Laura Kenny, Elinor Barker, Katie Archibald and Josie Knight went last in the session and at one point were more than a second up on Germany’s pace, but they fell away at the end to record a time of 4:09.022.
It was one of three rides in the session faster than the Rio record of 4:10.236, with world champions the United States third with a time of 4:10.118 – and they will now ride against Britain on Tuesday for a place in the gold medal race.
Laura Kenny, who had set the previous record alongside Barker, Archibald and Joanna Rowsell Shand in Brazil, predicted before the Games that the record would fall “three or four times” this week.
Germany might not have been on her list of candidates to do it, but Barker said seeing it happen so early in the session took the pressure off.
“It was really sort of good," elle a dit. “All the girls said the same thing. We knew the world record was going to be broken.
“We fully expected it to be the Australians or the Americans so for it to happen when we weren’t looking meant we didn’t need to worry too much because the worst had happened.”
Bretagne, riding last in the session, had been more than a second up on Germany’s pace at one point but fell away towards the end.
“We can be really, really happy,” Barker added. “It’s important to remember the time we did in Rio was with two teams on the track, which is worth seconds, so to go that quickly with one team shows how much we’ve gained.
“I think we were about a second faster so to be able to do that on our own is quite a big step.
“It’s just unfortunate that Germany were so much faster but I think we can be happy with that.
“I hope (Germany can be beaten). They’ve not always been the most consistent but then again we haven’t really seen them for a year and a half so maybe it’s something they’ve worked on. It will certainly be interesting.”
Britain will also take confidence from beating the Americans, who powered to gold ahead of them at the world championships in Berlin last year.
The big question coming into the day was how much Chloe Dygert – the world individual team pursuit champion and the powerhouse of this team – could contribute.
The 24-year-old suffered a horror crash last year and looked troubled in Wednesday’s time trial here, but delivered big turns on the front to keep the Americans in the mix.