Britain disqualified in womens team sprint

An illegal change leaves Games poster girl Victoria Pendleton out of Britain’s cycling team.

Great Britain's Victoria Pendleton reacts after she and Jessica Varnish were relegated from the Women's team sprint qualifying event of London 2012 Olympic games, on August 2, 2012 in London. Picture: AFP.

LONDON - Hosts Britain were disqualified from the Olympic women's cycling team sprint for an illegal change on Thursday to dash the hopes of a nation and leave Games poster girl Victoria Pendleton shaking her head in disbelief.

Boos rang out across the London Olympic velodrome when the announcer said Britain had been relegated in the first round after finisher Pendleton went too early when changing over in the set zone from lead-out Jessica Varnish.

"It is devastating, I take full responsibility for what happened. I was definitely going faster than ever in my life," Pendleton, who will hope to make up for the debacle when she defends her individual sprint title on Tuesday, told reporters.

"We practised thousands of times, it is difficult when you are going faster than you ever went before," added the 31-year-old, who retires after the Games.

Although Britain were not world champions in an event making its Olympic debut, host nation hopes were high of a gold medal after they broke the world record in qualifying.

"I came through the change zone about a metre too early. It happened in the blink of an eye," Pendleton added.

News of the disqualification took several minutes to come through to a bemused crowd, who had packed out the undulating venue along with Britain's Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge.

British cycling chief Dave Brailsford was seen in animated discussion with International Cycling Union officials but replays showed the changeover was illegal.

Britain has been basking in a wave of cycling-mania after Bradley Wiggins followed up his Tour de France triumph last month by winning the men's Olympic road time trial on Wednesday.