By Ian Whittell
London, March 6, 2016 (AFP) – Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish ended the Track World Championships in London with a dramatic win for the host nation in the Madison event, a result that left Britain top of the medals table.
The pair, who have both tasted multiple successes in the Tour de France, claimed the fifth gold medal of the five-day Championships, the overall tally of nine beating Germany by one.
The popular pair capped a successful week for British cycling with a masterful ride in the two-man Madison, winning early sprints to collect points before launching a late attack that pipped the French pair of Morgan Kneisky and Benjamin Thomas for gold.
It was a particularly sweet success for the British riders as the race represented Wiggins’ last competitive ride on the velodrome where he set the world hour record last year and Cavendish is still trying to prove his worth to gain selection for the omnium in the Rio Olympics.
“It’s my last race on this track so it wasn’t a bad one was it?” said Wiggins who kissed the track at the end of his winning ride.
“We knew we had the legs the later we got into the race so we kept biding our time because we knew everyone else was on their knees. It was now or never, we didn’t come here to finish fourth, but that was bloody hard!”
Cavendish and Wiggins rode together to win the Madison in 2008 and to add to the drama in London, he survived a late crash, swapping bikes before crossing the finishing line.
“It’s our second World Championship together, I’m so happy,” said Cavendish. “We rode together eight years ago and this is one of the last times we will ride together. It’s incredible.”
Laura Trott also thrilled the 8,000-plus home crowd by putting in a dominant performance in the women’s omnium, the six-discipline event in which she won gold at the 2012 Olympic Games at the same venue.
The 23-year-old had finished second at the previous three World Championships in the omnium, having won the title in 2012, but there seemed little doubt who would win the 2016 crown as she took control on the second day.
Tied with Sarah Hammer of the United States overnight, Trott came third in the 500 meter time trial and flying lap to take a 12-point lead into the final event, the points race.
Roared on by the partisan support, Trott won the first sprint to extend her advantage by a further four points and her victory was never in doubt as Hammer and France’s Laurie Berthon fought out a close battle for the silver medal with the latter taking the last sprint of the points race to secure second place overall.
– Omen for Rio? –
Trott’s fiance Jason Kenny won the men’s sprint 24 hours earlier while Trott was competing in day one of the omnium and he was taking part in the men’s Keirin event while she completed her gold medal ride.
“Jason winning the sprint was unbelievable,” said Trott, 23.
“It was right before one of my races at that spurred me on. Today he was riding after me so I was a bit more relaxed.”
“I hope it’s a good omen for the Olympics. I go into every event wanting to win and the Olympics is going to be no different. I’m going there to win and I’m really looking forward to it now.”
Germany’s Joachim Eilers required a photo finish to win his second gold medal of the championships as he beat New Zealander Ed Dawkins in a thrilling Keirin sprint.
The pair could only be separated by a photograph as Eilers, who also won the kilometre time trial and took bronze in the team sprint beat his rival by two-thousandths of a second.
Azizulhansi Awang of Malaysia claimed bronze after reigning Olympic champion Kenny made an early move but ran out of steam to come home in sixth and last place.
Tianshi Zhong of China is the new women’s sprint world champion after beating her countrywoman Lin Junhong emphatically in the final.
The 25-year-old was a comfortable winner in both of the final rides, taking the best-of-three series 2-0 to improve upon the bronze she won in the event 12 months ago.
Defending champion, Germany’s Kristina Vogel, winner of the women’s Keirin title this week, beat Australian Anna Meares 2-0 in the bronze medal ride.
World track cycling championships results on
1. Great Britain +1 lap 21pts, 2. France + 1 lap 14pts, 3. Spain +1 lap 12pts
1. Joachim Eilers (GER) 10.067secs, 2. Ed Dawkins (NZL), 3. Azizulhansi Awang (MAS)
1. Tianshi Zhong (CHN), 2. Lin Junhong (CHN), 3. Kristina Vogel (GER)
1. Laura Trott (GBR) 201pts, 2. Laurie Berthon (FRA) 183pts, 3. Sarah Hammer (USA) 182pts