Britons who saw Team GB win gold in the team pursuit will have felt a twinge of nervousness inside the final two laps when a gap opened to Owain Doull, the third man in the line. Doull, it seems, had not realised that Steven Burke had already swung off.
"It was a scrappy one," said Doull. "I changed and hadn't heard a shout for three. I changed expecting four guys and turned down and there were two. I was down the track, giving everything trying to get back on that wheel. I just thought I could never forgive myself if I didn't get on and it cost us the win.
The Welshman told Eurosport that victory meant ‘everything’ to him.
"I put four years of my life towards it. To be so close at previous World Championships and losing both times, to finally pull it off is massive."
Team-mate Ed Clancy, who had surgery last December after sustaining a back problem picking up his training bag at the National Cycling Centre in Manchester, was overwhelmed at the finish.
"I've never been so emotional crossing the line. I was in tears. It was the happiest moment of my life. We've been in that position in a final against the Australians so many times and so many times in the last four years they've put us away.
"It was December 3 I woke up from surgery and December 5 there was a World Cup in New Zealand. The Aussies did a (three minutes) 53 (seconds). You never give up hope, but it seemed like a pretty far-fetched dream to be stood up here."
Clancy said he wanted to go for another gold at the Tokyo Games in four years' time and Steven Burke was of a similar mind. “Extra special compared to London,” he said, “because it's not many who defend an Olympic title. I'm glad I've won two on the bounce and I'm hoping to do another Olympics in Tokyo and go for a third medal."
The fourth member of the team was of course Sir Bradley Wiggins, who said he would not be competing in Tokyo: "My kids need a proper dad in their lives. My wife needs a proper husband. I wanted to go out on top, and it was one of the best finals ever. Hats off to the Australians. It's a relief. Eighteen months ago there were doubts about whether I could come back and do this."
Sir Chris Hoy, who remains Britain’s most successful Olympian with six golds, led the tributes to Wiggins.
“I don't think winning a medal of any colour at the Rio Olympics changes anything for Bradley. His results speak for themselves. What he has achieved over the years in cycling across all disciplines – before he even got to the Games – is unrivalled. It's great to see him back on the track where his career started, and clearly enjoying it.”
British Cycling president Bob Howden added:
“Sir Bradley’s standing in the world of sport was cemented a long time ago, but the fact that he has now picked up another medal in his fifth successive Olympic Games only serves to underline what a special talent he is.
“He has represented his country and his sport with great distinction over the years, and we at British Cycling are exceptionally proud of Sir Bradley and his team-mates after what was a spectacular performance this evening.”
Speaking about the team as a whole, Howden said:
“This result will have left the whole team on cloud nine. The team produced absolutely mesmerising performances both yesterday and this evening, and everyone in Britain can take immense pride in this achievement. We are now on our third medal from Britain’s cyclists and I’m confident that we’ll be bringing home a few more over the coming days.”