By Martyn Herman
TOKYO (Reuters) - Germany dethroned Britain's women as queens of the Olympic track team pursuit in brutal fashion on Tuesday, with a third world record in two days giving them an emphatic victory.
The fearsome foursome of Franziska Brausse, Lisa Brennauer, Lisa Klein and Mieke Kroeger almost caught Britain's quartet in the 4km final at the Izu Velodrome, stopping the clock at 4:04.242.
That was a barely credible six seconds faster than the time Britain recorded in Rio in 2016 to win a second successive Olympic gold in the discipline added to the programme in 2012.
That British record had endured until Monday, but Germany fired a clear message of intent when they obliterated it in Monday's qualifying rounds.
In Tuesday's medal heats Britain - again powered by four-time Olympic gold-medallist Laura Kenny - responded in thrilling fashion to edge out the United States in 4:06.748 to put themselves into the gold-medal ride.
Minutes later Germany raised the bar again as they crushed Italy in their heat in 4:06.159, setting up what looked set to be a sizzling showdown on the Izu boards.
But almost from the first lap of the final, Germany began to build an advantage and never relented as they steamed around the oval in perfect unison.
"We were riding really smooth and well together," Klein told reporters. "Everything matched and everyone had a good tactic. Everyone did a perfect job so we could execute it to the line."
"We're just super happy that we had the run of our life," added Brennauer, who said a switch of strategy during a recent training camp had been the key to their speed.
"It was such a cool feeling, and we're just overwhelmed at the moment."
Their victory, which matched Britain's in Rio when they also set three world record en route to gold, ended Kenny's 100% record at Olympic events.
She won team pursuit and omnium in London and Rio to become Britain's most-decorated female Olympian.
"Germany took everyone by surprise. We knew they were going to go fast, just not that fast," Kenny, who could still add to her golden haul in the Madison and omnium, said.
"We are proud that we rode a 4:06 but just a bit disappointed that we didn't get gold by doing so."
Should Kenny win one of her remaining events later this week she would surpass Dutchwoman Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel as the most successful female cyclist in Olympics history.
"It's not over until it's over. We've got two more women's endurance events so don't count us out yet."
The United States, who Britain had beaten in the final in the two previous Olympics, took bronze.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris and John Stonestreet)