By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - Bradley Wiggins' hopes of leading Britain to team pursuit gold at the world track championships were foiled by old rivals Australia in a thrilling final on Thursday.
It looked as though Wiggins, 35, and team mates Jonathan Dibben, Ed Clancy and Owain Doull would raise the roof in the Olympic velodrome as they recovered from an early deficit but a youthful Australia outfit struck back to claim the title.
Victory for Sam Welsford, Michael Hepburn, Callum Scotson and Miles Scotson was Australia's sixth world title in the event in the past 11 editions of the championships and laid down the gauntlet for this year's Rio Olympics.
Their time of 3:52:727 was just outside the world record set by Britain on the same boards at London 2012.
"When you look back at the last few Olympic cycles, the team that has won at the worlds has won the Olympics," Hepburn, 24, told reporters. "But there's still a hell of a lot of work to do."
Double Olympic champion Laura Trott's perfectly-timed sprint in the 10km scratch race gave the hosts their first medal at the championships after the disappointment of Britain's women's team pursuit quartet only managing the fifth-fastest time in their qualifiers, ruling them out of gold medal contention.
Trott, part of Britain's dominant track team at the 2012 Olympics when she won gold in the omnium and team pursuit, burst to the front on the 40th and final lap at the London velodrome and edged out Kirsten Wild of the Netherlands on the line.
"I know this is not an Olympic event but last year in Paris this was the event that let me down in the omnium and I've worked so hard on it over the past 12 months," Trott said.
The home crowd had mainly come to roar on Wiggins though -- Britain's favorite cycling son who has returned to his track roots with an eye on a fifth Olympic gold in Rio.
Britain trailed for most of the 4,000m race but clawed back the deficit and led briefly with about three laps to go before Clancy, a key member of Britain's 2008 and 2012 Olympic-winning teams in the event, cracked -- a legacy of the back injury that nearly ruled him out of the championships.
"It's disappointing, but we are close," Wiggins told reporters. "I knew we had gone ahead but it's 4km and they had it for 4km. Ed just didn't quite have it at the end.
"We've just got to take it on the chin."
Australian veteran Anna Meares just failed to add a 12th world gold to her collection when she was edged out in an thrilling keirin final by Germany's Kristina Vogel with Britain's Rebecca James taking the bronze.
"When the door opened up just past the bell I was licking my lips a bit but I just couldn't step off the wheel, but I love good hard racing," said the 32-year-old Meares, who is hoping to contest the keirin in Rio.
It proved a good day for Germany with Joachim Eilers winning the men's 1km time trial by beating Dutch veteran Theo Bos and Frenchman Quentin Lafargue.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris/Toby Davis)