UCI Track Worlds Day 5: Second gold for Becky James as GB tops medal table in Minsk
GB comes away from Belarus with five gold medals; silver in the omnium today for Laura Trott
Becky James has won her second rainbow jersey in two days, the 21-year-old from Abergavenny adding the keirin to the individual sprint she won yesterday and confirm herself as Britain’s latest star on the track. With Laura Trott taking silver in the omnium today, Great Britain comes away from a world championships expected to mark a transition as the team rebuilds for Rio 2016 on top of the medal table, with five golds, two, silvers and two bronzes.
James tucked in behind the derny immediately from the restart after an earlier false start, with Kristina Vogel of Germany, whom she had beaten to win the individual sprint yesterday, on her wheel.
Once the derny peeled off with two an a half laps to go, Cuba’s Lisandra Guerra, who had been at the back of the field, came through to challenge James for the lead but the British woman held her line.
The Cuban’s strength cost Vogel the opportunity to go for gold, however, with the German forced onto the inside of the track and crashing out – thankfully, without apparent injury – as the riders started to round the final bend.
Guerra was in James’s slipstream as they came off the final bend, but the British rider was stronger, and China’s Jinjie Gong also came through to snatch silver from the Cuban on the line.
"Oh my gosh. I can't believe it. Wow,” enthused James shortly after sealing her double victory, mirroriing her achievement in the same events at junior level in 2009.
Reflecting on the keirin final, she said: "After the second round I was feeling it in my legs and I really struggled getting up from the back. I just thought if I can get to the front, they're all going to have to come round me.
"I just wanted to build on it and try to defend the front. When it was a lap-and-a-half to go and Guerra and Vogel were outside me, if they don't go, I'm going to have to defend.
"I stayed as close to the red line as I could, making them go as far as possible. I just held Guerra there. It just worked out so well. I just thought 'if I can just hold her here then everyone else is going to have to come round the outside of her'.
"I was in so much pain, but I just pushed and pushed and I finished. And I finished in the front.”
Today’s victory takes James’s total medal haul from Minsk to four, having earlier taken bronze in both the 500-metre time trial and the team sprint, where she partnered Victoria Williamson, who replaced the injured Jess Varnish.
The 2012 keirin world champion, Anna Meares of Australia, who won the individual sprint at the Olympic Games in London last summer, may have been missing here.
That doesn’t at all diminish James’s achievement in Minsk, where she has proved herself a worthy successor to the retired Victoria Pendleton. Certainly, there are likely to be some big battles with Meares in the years ahead, however.
In the omnium, Trott was lying third overnight, five points behind Sarah Hammer of the United States, who had been the last two riders left in the final event of Saturday evening, the elimination race.
Trott has made that discipline her speciality, and as she had done when winning the world championship in Melbourne last year and again in the Olympics in London last summer, she took maximum points.
Hammer, who won her fifth world title in the individual pursuit earlier this week, still had that event to come today, and by the time the final discipline came round, the 500-metre time trial, she was six points ahead of Trott, her most likely challenger.
While Trott posted the fourth fastest time to take silver, Hammer was sixth quickest and won gold by four points, with the British rider acknowledging afterwards that the points race, her weakest discipline among the six that feature in the omnium, had cost her dear.
Trott acknowledged that she had been beaten by "the better rider in the day," adding: "I normally leave it to the 500m. I came here hoping I wouldn't do that.
"The points race let me down again. She beat me by seven places in the points race and overall by four. It's that points race letting me down. I haven't really sat down and worked out how to ride it. My main focus is team pursuit and getting that right.
"I am definitely going to focus on it now. Chris Newton [points race world champion in 2002 and now a British Cycling coach] is going to help me."
Also decided today were the men’s Madison, won by France with Spain coming through to win the final sprint to clinch silver ahead of Germany, and the men’s individual sprint, where Germany’s Stefan Bötticher beat Russia’s Denis Dmitriev in the final, with François Pervis of France third.
The Great Britain team that came to Minsk blended the experience of world and Olympic champions with some riders who were getting their first taste of competition at this level.
Besides Becky James, those returning from Belarus with a rainbow jersey and gold medal in their luggage are Jason Kenny, who won the keirin, the women’s team pursuit squad including Elinor Barker at her first worlds, having defended their crown, and Simon Yates who provided one of the surprises in winning the points race.
No medal targets may have been set, but there’s little doubt the championships have been a resounding success from a British point of view.