The track worlds. In London. During an Olympic year. Racing in front of a sell-out stadium night after night. And two of the biggest sports personalities in Great Britain teaming up for the final event. Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish – arguably the catalyst for more Brits following cycling than any other – in the Madison together. They sprint. They take points early. They do everything right but need to also take a lap to get into the gold medal position. So they did that with 17 laps to go. But then Cav crashes… what a script!
Giles Belbin sums up the racing from the final night in London…
Lee Valley VeloPark, London: Great Britain superstars Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish won the final gold of the championship, taking Madison gold in a fevered velodrome.
The duo, who won the world title in 2008 won with ‘the boys are back in town’ pumping out of the tannoy. It was an emotional win and both men were in great form when they talked to the press.
“To send all those people away happy…it’s like when the [Stone] Roses played in 2012 at Heaton Park,” Wiggins said grinning. “It was a good gig wasn’t it and everyone went home happy – it’s like us two getting back together again.”
“In 2008 when we won that first Madison together we hadn’t done anything on the road,” Cavendish continued.
“A month after that he won his Giro stage,” Wiggins continued. “And then we went on to conquer the world in those [next] eight years, like Barack Obama, over eight years we’ve had a good turn in presidency and now we’ve come back full circle and won it again.”
Cavendish had fallen in the closing moments causing a wave of consternation in the velodrome.
“I didn’t know he had fallen off…I was like where is he? I kept looking for him thinking he’s put in a long turn… I didn’t realise he’d crashed. I was out of it by then, foaming at the mouth for the last 10 laps.”
Cavendish and Wiggins have been at the forefront of the huge boom in British cycling’s fortunes, particularly on the road.
“You think of what we’ve done in those eight years together,” said Wiggins. “Going across the Champs-Elysées together, Copenhagen [when Cavendish won the road world title]… you know in 50 years time – you see those iconic images of [Tom] Simpson now and you think what will those images look like.”
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In a great day for the host country Great Britain’s golden girl, Laura Trott took her second gold of the championships, winning the omnium in spectacular style.
Going into the final event, the points race, Trott had a 12 point lead over France’s Laurie Berthon and 18 over the USA’s Sarah Hammer. Trott took the first and the fifth sprint and rode a controlled race, her overall lead never threatened.
Trott finished on 201 points, 18 ahead of Berthon who claimed silver by a single point over Hammer after winning the final sprint.
“Paul [Manning] had already said that if I get to 20 laps to go with a big enough gap I could basically just ride round and follow so that is what I tried to do,” Trott told the BBC. “I’m just so happy – it’s only taken four years to get it back!”
Annette Edmondson, Australia’s defending champion was fourth in the standings going into the points race, having won the morning’s 500m time trial and placed fourth in the flying lap. She finished in fifth, a strong performance given her preparations were thrown off track when she collided with a car in a training ride just two weeks from the start of the championships.
“The program today suits me, I’m pretty good at the 500 and the flying lap on normal occasions,” Edmonson said. “I was hoping that I would be alright in those and try and get as much of a buffer on the others as I could. Going into the points I had nothing to lose. Obviously you want to try to get on the podium so it’s worth risking that fourth position to try to do that. I had to try to change my tactics which I haven’t had to do before to try to go for laps but I didn’t have the legs, it was as simple as that.”
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Anna Meares missed out on the chance to ride for sprint gold when she lost her semi-final in two heats to the Chinese rider Junhong Lin. The second heat was a cagey affair with Meares slowing the pace of the opening lap right down, slowing to a virtual standstill. The pace picked up and then Junhong launched her attack with around a lap and a half to go, coming round the outside of Meares to win through.
In the other semi, Zhong Tianshi beat Germany’s Kristina Vogel to set up an all-Chinese final. It meant that Meares and Vogel raced for bronze, a repeat of their 1/8 final of the previous day when Vogel took the win.
Meares’ and Vogel’s fortunes have been inextricably linked this championships, with Vogel and her team-mate Miriam Welte beating Meares and Steph Morton to bronze in the team sprint and then Vogel pushing Meares into silver in the keirin.
And again it was Vogel who prevailed. The German was too strong for Meares, needing only the two heats to secure the bronze against a tired looking Meares.
Meares, who suffered a back injury in the run-up to the championships and puts herself only at about 90-95% fit, was upbeat with about her performance.
“I’m really quite pleased,” she said. “That is my best sprint result since 2012. I haven’t been in the semi-final rounds of a world event for four years so I’m actually really pleased I was able to overcome Steph in the quarter-final – that was a really hard race, in terms of the physical, technical and tactical side of it but also racing you teammate, that’s always really hard.
“Then, when I got into the semis I knew I was going to be struggling with my speed a little bit because the other girls in qualifying showed much better top end speed so I just had to be a bit craftier in how I was racing. Actually I had a lot of fun doing it.
“For me getting into the final four of the sprint was a huge step, a really huge step for my confidence, for my self-belief, for just getting that feeling back again and I liked it, I’d like some more of that.”
In the race for gold Zhong was far too strong for her team-mate Junhong, winning the gold in two heats. Zhong adds her individual gold to the team gold she won in Paris 12 months ago in yet another demonstration of the real strength the Chinese now have in women’s sprinting.
In the men’s keirin, Joachim Eilers of Germany beat New Zealand’s Ed Dawkins and Malaysia’s Azizulhasni Awang.
The final medal table saw Australia in third spot with five medals, two golds. Great Britain finished top of the table with nine medals, five of them gold.
– By Giles Belbin