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By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Cycling power Britain and surprise package Germany set world records tumbling to win titles and gain a confidence boost ahead of the London Olympics as the track world championships began on Wednesday.
Britain's Edward Clancy, Steven Burke, Peter Kennaugh and Geraint Thomas posted a world record time of three minutes 53.295 seconds to win the men's 4,000 metres team pursuit and upset world champions Australia at a heaving Hisense Arena.
The performance eclipsed Britain's previous world record mark of 3:53.314 set at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and ended Australia's bid for a third consecutive title amid thunderous roars from the stands at the Melbourne velodrome.
"I could hear the crowd were going nuts and then they'd be silent for a couple of laps and they they'd go nuts again so we knew we were up and down," Clancy, who won his fourth world title in the event, told reporters.
"We're in the ballpark now and we're on the right path to London which is the big one.
"Obviously, it's nice to come here and win another world championship. It doesn't happen every day, but the real important thing is we're on the right path and we're moving on and there's more to come."
New Zealand beat Russia for the bronze.
Australia, widely tipped to duel Britain for the Olympic titles in London, suffered another stinging disappointment when their dominant women's sprint team were upset by the unheralded German combination of Miriam Welte and Kristina Vogel.
The Germans set the velodrome alight with a world record to beat British pair Victoria Pendleton and Jessica Varnish in their qualifying heat, then beat that time in the final an hour later to stun Anna Meares and Kaarle McCulloch.
They claimed the title in 32.549 seconds, shaving 0.081 seconds off their world record set in qualifying, dashing the Australians' hopes of a fourth straight title and stunning the thrilled Germans themselves.
"Yesterday was the first day we felt really good on the track and I never thought we could go so fast and I never believed that, so it's just amazing," 21-year-old Vogel gushed.
"I told Miriam that I wanted to do a new German record but to do a new world record... I don't understand that at the moment."
China's Guo Shuang and Gong Jinjie denied Pendleton and Varnish a spot on the podium, as the Britons slumped to a time of 33.160 seconds, well shy of the 32.754 world record they set at the London World Cup in February and carried into Melbourne.
Australia eased their disappointment by winning the event they may have least fancied themselves in - men's team sprint - after holders Germany were ruled out of the gold medal race, one of several teams disqualified for technical infringements.
The trio of Shane Perkins, Scott Sunderland and Matthew Glaetzer shocked France in the final with a winning margin of just one one-thousandth of a second.
Having trailed early, Australia stormed home in the last lap to clock 43.266 seconds and condemn France to more torment after they had their 2011 title stripped earlier this year for Gregory Bauge's breach of the anti-doping "whereabouts" rule.
"Our energy and excitement went up another level and it showed in that final. We were pretty pumped," said individual sprint world champion Perkins, who battled a sprained wrist and bruising to compete after being hit by a car over the weekend.
"I think that just adds to (our confidence)," he added, looking ahead to London. "We've got it all worked out pretty well but there's some fine-tuning to be done.
"To come away with a win after we've been a work in progress is absolutely fantastic."
Chris Hoy-led Britain, along with Greece and the United States, were also disqualified from the team sprint after surprise German-born pick Philip Hindes infringed with an illegal changeover between riders during the race.
"I think he (Hindes) is upset, he's alright but we've already spoken to him and said, 'Don't worry about it, you should be really proud of yourself, the way you've ridden today,'" quadruple Olympic champion Hoy told reporters.
New Zealand edged Japan to win the bronze.
Britain's Ben Swift took gold in the non-Olympic men's scratch race ahead of South Africa's Nolan Hoffman and Wim Stroetinga of Netherlands.
(Editing by Ken Ferris)
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