Two cyclists at opposite ends of their Olympic career, Laura Trott and Sir Chris Hoy, won their second gold medals of London 2012 in the Olympic Velodrome tonight - and in Hoy's case a record breaking sixth in his career - but there was disappointment for Victoria Pedleton, whose career ended with a silver medal in the final of the individual sprint as she was beaten by Australia's Anna Meares.
Trott won the women's omnium following a nail-biting battle with Sarah Hammer of the United States, while Hoy put in a storming ride to successfully defend the keirin title he won in Beijing. Hoy, who won his fifth Olympic gold in the team sprint last week, now moves ahead of Sir Steve Redgrave as the only British athlete to have won six gold medals. In the women's sprint, Pendleton, the defending champion, had won the opening race by a thousandth of a second but was relegated from the results after straying out of her lane as the riders went shoulder to shoulder approaching the line.
The gold medals won by Hoy and Trott mean that with the mountain bike and BMX events still to come, with a total of four golds still up for grabs, Great Britain's cyclists have won the same number, eight, as they did in Beijing four years ago, a performance that had widely been seen as impossible to beat, in part because of changes to the track programme. As in China, however, seven golds went to Great Britain in the velodrome, although the restriction of one rider per nation in the individual events meant the Beijing track total of 12 medals was out of reach, with nine won across the ten events in London.
With Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome taking gold and silver respectively in the individual time trial last week, and Lizzie Armitstead cliching silver in the women's road race, Great Britain now has eight golds among a total of 12 medals to date, so the total haul in Beijoing across the four Olympic disciplines isn't out of reach yet.
Trott went into the final event, the 500m time trial, two points behind Hammer of the United States. The two women had been tied on 12 points overnight, the Briton in the lead on countback.
The leading pair posted the two quickest times in today's opening event, the 3km individual pursuit, Hammer going a little under a second fastet than Trott to move into the lead by just one point.
Hammer extended her lead in the points race, finishing second to Annette Edmondson of Australia, with Trott third, which made the calculation for the final event simple - Trott had to finish three places ahead of Hammer to be certain of gold.
As the pair lined up for the final heat, it was a given that Trott, riding one of her strongest disciplines, would beat Hammer, but the two big questions were whether she would be able to beat the fastest time of 35.140, set by Edmondson, and how high the American would finish up the order.
If the 20-year-old Trott, who comes from Cheshunt, a few miles north of the Olympic Park, felt pressure, it didn't translate into her riding as she stormed round the two laps in the quickest time of 35.110 seconds.
The time of 35.900 set by Hammer, nine years Trott's senior, was not only slower than Edmondson's, but also that posted by French spriter Clara Sanchez to give Trott her second gold medal of the Games by just one point. Edmondson finished five points further back but secured bronze.
"I can't believe this has happened to me," confessed Trott after sealing her victory. “I was losing my head a little bit between the events because they weren't going the way I wanted them to, so I am so happy.
"My coaches really helped me to peak on time. I couldn't ask from much more from the coaching staff. They've helped me improve so much since the world championships. My family and friends are here, and the support of the crowd was amazing."
The double Olympic champion admitted that she could not have come so far so quickly were it not for the support of her family. "I couldn't have done it without them. The amount of money they put in when I was young and they had to take me everywhere.. my dad had to give up his cricket!
"I am so happy and I cannot thank everyone enough. I came into today not feeling as good as yesterday so to finish off with that last 500m is unbelievable."
Women's individual sprint
Australia have had a difficult Olympics and their track cyclists have been no exception, with only silver in the men's team pursuit and bronze medals in the women's team sprint and for Shane Perkins in the men's individual sprint to show for their efforts going into the final day of competition.
There was a certain inevitability that Anna Meares, individual sprint silver medallist in Beijing, would line up against defending champion Victoria Pendleton for the final race of the British rider's caree, and both negotiated their semi-finals 2-0, Pendleton beating Germany's Kristina Vogel and Meares seeing off China's Guo Shuang, who would go on to take bronze.
In the world championships in Melbourne in April, the two rivals had met at the semi-final stage, Pendleton crashing out of the first race then levelling at one all after Meares was relegated for straying outside her lane. Pendleton won the third and deciding heat on a photo finish.
Today's first race of the best-of-three final also went to a photograph, Pendleton adjudged to have won by just one-thousandth of a second as Meares, finishing strongly, failed to overhaul her by the narrowest of margins.
However, the partisan crowd's cheers soon became muted as it became apparent that the commissaires were examining footage of the two women clashing as they entered the home straight, and decided that Pendleton had briefly deviated from her lane.
The heat went to Meares, with Pendleton relegated, and it would prove the second time in three events here at the velodrome that a decision by the judges potentially cost her the chance of a gold medal after she and Jessica Varnish were relegated from the quarter finals of the team sprint last week for an illegal changeover.
Pendleton, of course, still had two heats in which to turn the situatiuon around, but entering the second race one-nil down instead of enjoying the lead meant that she had to ride a very different race. Hoping to catch Meares off guard, the British rider went early with two of the three laps still to race, but Meares quckly closed down the gap then came round her rival on the back straight and won the heat - and with it, the gold medal - convincingly with no need for a photograph to separate the two riders this time.
"I would have loved to have won on my final race, but I'm just so glad that's it all done and I can move on," an emotional Pendleton admitted afterwards. "These have been the hardest four years of my life, the pressure of going into the Olympics as Olympic champion, I couldn’t go through it again. You could pay me a billion pounds I couldn’t go through that again.”
Referring to that relegation from the first race of the final, she said: “It’s up to them to make the decision and it’s just one of those things that happens. I thought she bumped into me and that may have caused me to move out. When you are going at that speed your balance is easily thrown.
“But I don’t know, I haven’t checked it out and I’m just glad it’s over. I was pretty peed off because I’m normally pretty good at coming back from one down.”
“I just made a bad decision, you can’t always do things perfectly in the heat of the moment and I didn’t do it perfectly tonight.”
Of her battles over the years with Meares, which became one of the most compelling in the sport and especially heading to these Olympics with female sprinters having three gold medal chances rather than the one they had before, she said: “We have had a fantastic rivalry and I’ve loved every minute.
“I don’t there have been two women at that level in cycling and I don’t think there ever will be again. It’s been epic, it’s been emotional and I hope it’s been entertaining.”
A medal of any colour would put Hoy level on seven with Bradley Wiggins on total Olympic medals won, and the Scot's part in the men's team sprint last week meant that he had already matched Sir Steve Redgrave on five gold medals. Victory in his First and Second Round heats put the 36-year-old into the final, with Germany's Maximillian Levy, who had also won both his heats, the pick of the opposition.
It proved to be a thrilling end to Hoy's Olympic career, and one that had another packed crowd in the velodrome on tenterhooks as they wondered whether he had gone too early. Sitting fourth of the six riders as the derny led them round the track, after it peeled off Hoy came round on the outside of Malaysia's Azizulhasni Awang and Germany's Levy to power to the front with two laps still to go.
He opened a gap, but Levy responded, and heading down the back straight, the German was in front, with Hoy on his inside. By the time they came off the final bend, however, it was clear that victory was Hoy's as he made history by becoming the first British Olympian to win six gold medals, watched from the trackside by Redgrave.
Levy took silver, and with no way of telling from the finish line which of the two riders vying for bronze had crossed first, unusually Simon Van Velthooven of New Zealand and Teun Mulder of the Netherlands were both awarded a medal.
Modestly, the one-time rower Hoy, who had brushed away tears as he received his medal on the podium, insisted that irrespective of how many gold medals anyone won, Redgrave would remain his hero and, in his opinion, the greatest Olympic athlete, pointing out that his gold medals had been secured at five separate Games.
"I was in a right old state," confessed Hoy of his tears on the podium. "I saw Feliz Sanchez last night in the 400 metres hurdles. There are so many hard moments where you are doubting yourseld in the four years ...it is a long, long time.
"You only see the polished product at the end of the day, four years of hard work, injury, disappointment, defeat ... it is not a glamourous thing. As a cyclist you have to put a lot of hard yards in and that's why you enjoy these moments. Because that's what makes it all worthwhile.
"I'm in shock, you try and compose yourself but it's surreal. I wanted to win gold in front of my home crowd. I saw everyone stepping up to the plate and thankfully it worked out for me too.
"This is the perfect end to my Olympic career. At Sydney, I was just over the moon with a silver medal. If I'd have stopped then I would have been a happy boy, but to go on to Athens, Bejing and here, I can't put it into words."
"The keirin is a lottery and you never take anything for granted in i. I can't describe the feelings I have at the moment. This is enough for me, this is the perfect end to my Olympic career.
While Hoy has ridden his last Olympics, unlike Pendleton he won't be retiring immediately, and it's likely that his swasong will come in Glasgow in 2016 at the Commonwealth Games, riding in the velodrome that bears his name.
"I'm 99.9 per cent sure I won't be competing in Rio. How can you top this? The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in two years is another question, as that would be the dream ending for me."
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.