IZU, Japan (Reuters) - Britain's reign as masters of the Olympic men's team pursuit ended when they were crushed by world champions Denmark in a dramatic heat at the Izu Velodrome on Tuesday.
With three-times gold medal winner Ed Clancy having pulled out injured on the morning of the race, Britain were always up against it and they were no match for the Danes.
The heat finished in chaotic fashion, though, as Denmark's lead man Frederik Madsen caught Clancy's replacement Charlie Tanfield who had fallen off the pace.
If a team are caught that usually ends the contest but incredibly Madsen ploughed into the back of Tanfield with both riders crashing to the floor and there was confusion all around about what that meant in terms of the rules.
The result was eventually confirmed by cycling's world governing body UCI, with the Danes moving into the gold medal decider against Italy scheduled for Wednesday.
There was no confusion, however, for Italy as they broke Denmark's world record in a scintillating heat against New Zealand who also went below the mark set by the Danes in 2020.
Italy's winning time for the 4km race was 3:42.307 with New Zealand fractionally behind in 3:42.397.
Britain won the last three Olympic gold medals in team pursuit.
The crash was not the only intrigue as Britain's performance director Stephen Park said he had complained to race organisers the UCI about tape the Danish riders wore on their legs in Monday's qualifiers.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond)