Germany and the Netherlands both claimed gold in the velodrome on Tuesday as crushing victories over Britain finally signalled the end of British dominance in the sport.
The Germans broke the world record for a third time in two days to beat Britain by more than six seconds in the women’s team pursuit final.
The British team were over three seconds behind in the final of the men’s team sprint, as the Netherlands cruised to victory.
“To win the gold medal with a world record, it’s just unbelievable,” said Germany’s Mieke Kroeger. “This is the dream of every athlete.”
The Netherlands arrived as the three-time world champions in the men’s team sprint. Their gold medal is their first in men’s track cycling since 1936.
“We always take the British team very seriously,” said Roy van den Berg. “But we have proved we have dominance of our own in recent years. To show it here at the Olympics is amazing.”
Two silver medals still represents a decent return for Britain but it falls below their previous high standards.
Britain had won the last three Olympic golds in the men’s team sprint and the previous two in the women’s team pursuit.
Their disappointment was intensified by an extraordinary crash in the men’s team heat against Denmark, with the Danes awarded victory despite Frederik Madsen smashing into the back of Britain’s Charlie Tanfield.
“I was so tired, I didn’t know if Charlie was 10 or 20 metres away. I couldn’t react,” said Madsen. “It’s awful for this to happen in an Olympic semi-final.”
Denmark were on the cusp of a clear victory, the crash happening as Madsen went to overtake a tiring Tanfield, who had been dropped by the trailing British team.
Britain complain about Danish garments
But Britain believed Denmark should have been disqualified for the collision, having already complained about the Danes wearing illegal garments on Monday, including tape on their legs and undervests, to reduce resistance.
Instead, Denmark went unpunished for the garments while Madsen was considered to have caught Tanfield.
Denmark advance to Wednesday’s final against Italy while Britain were handed a race for seventh against Switzerland.
“My take on it was he caused the crash of an opponent,” said British coach Iain Dyer. “We feel pretty let down by the UCI.”
On the illegal tape and undervests, British cycling’s performance director Stephen Park said: “Do I think they should be disqualified? I don’t think there is any alternative.
“The rules are clear. It says you cannot apply something to the skin. They have applied something to the skin.”
Britain could have no complaints against Germany, who broke the women’s team pursuit world record twice in less than two hours, having already set a new world best on Monday in the heats.
The German quartet of Franziska Brausse, Lisa Brennauer, Lisa Klein and Kroeger clocked 4min 04.242sec in the final, below their earlier time of 4:06.159 and streets ahead of Britain’s 4:10.607 in the final.
Victory ended Britain’s hopes of a third consecutive gold while Laura Kenny’s remarkable streak of winning gold in every Olympic event she had entered was broken. Kenny had previously won team pursuit and omnium in both 2012 and 2016.
The Americans clinched a bronze medal, their time of 4:08.040 enough to see off Canada.
The Netherlands were almost as emphatic in the men’s team sprint as Van den Berg, Harrie Lavreysen and Jeffrey Hoogland set a new Olympic record of 41.369sec to destroy Britain, who managed 44.589. France took bronze.
A silver medal did mean Britain’s Jason Kenny made history, becoming the first athlete to win eight Olympic medals in track cycling, moving ahead of compatriots Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins, who both won seven.
“It’s nice, it’s special. I limped over the line with a silver,” Kenny said. “I know it will annoy Chris, he will probably make a comeback now! The Games get harder every time.”
On whether this is the end of an era for Britain on the track, Kenny said: “We have two silvers. We weren’t good enough today and we’ve got three years now to get back on the right side of that fine line again.”