APELDOORN, Netherlands (AFP) ─ American Sarah Hammer launched a stunning fightback to defend her three-kilometer individual pursuit title against New Zealand’s Alison Shanks at the world track cycling championships Friday.
Shanks had led from the outset of the 12-lap race, taking a 0.2sec lead over the veteran American at the 1km mark to a massive one-second advantage four laps later.
Hammer, however, had the crowd on their toes thanks to a late rally in the final three laps which saw her come home in a winning time of 3min 32.933sec.
Shanks finished in 3:33.229 to take the silver. Earlier, Vilija Serekaite beat another Kiwi, Jaime Nielsen, to win the bronze.
Hammer claims her fourth world title in the individual pursuit, which is now no longer on the Olympic program.
Despite its impending absence from the London Games, Hammer aims to compete in the team event and the inaugural omnium competition in 2012.
Asked about her stunning fightback, Hammer said it all came down to who wanted victory the most.
“I knew it was going to come down to the last 500 meters, the last lap. We both wanted it so bad,” said the American.
“We both had one hand on the jersey and in the end it was just about who was going to tear it away.
“It’s one tiny moment to give it everything you have. Don’t leave anything out there. Every pedal stroke, up and down, everything.”
Hammer will now compete in the six-event omnium which begins on Saturday.
“The pursuit is one of six for the omnium, it’s a good start. And I’m glad to have the rainbows on. Tonight I can look at it before I go to sleep,” she added.
“It’s so special.”
France’s Gregory Bauge won the world sprint title after beating Britain’s Jason Kenny 2-0 in the final of the blue riband event of the world track cycling championships Friday.
Kenny, the Olympic silver medalist in Beijing, had caused a minor sensation by ousting Olympic champion Sir Chris Hoy 2-0 in the semis to secure his final spot.
However the 23-year-old Englishman was outclassed by Bauge in two thrilling rounds, which the Frenchman capped with a far superior display of sprinting in the second leg.
Hoy later made amends when he got the better of Frenchman Mickael Bourgain in a third leg decider to take the bronze medal.
Bourgain had won the first match, however Hoy battled back to pip the 35-year-old Scot for the second.
The fact Hoy failed to make the final will only fuel speculation as to who will represent Britain’s men in the Olympics next year. Only one sprint place is allocated to each country.
Barring catastrophe, France will face no such dilemma.
Bauge’s third consecutive world title will make the 26-year-old the favorite going into the London Games in just more than a year’s time.
Bauge, who picks up his second gold of the championships after helping France to team sprint gold, also equals the three sprint titles won by his coach, triple Olympic champion Florian Rousseau in 1996-1998.
After going to celebrate with his parents and family at trackside, a smiling Bauge said: “I am very, very happy with this title.”
But with 16 months until the Games, he knows the big rendezvous will be in London: “We’re on our way to the Games!”
As France look to have found the man who will represent them in the sprint in London, Britain have an agonising choice to make between Hoy, Kenny and Matthew Crampton, the third member of the sprint team.
Kenny was happy with his performances, but admitted Britain will have to lift their game if they are to unseat the imperial Bauge.
“At the end of the day I’m really pleased with the silver medal, pleased with my performances all round. It’s my best finish at the world championships… it’s good to be back in the thick of it again,” said Kenny.
“After Beijing I was finishing in fifth and sixth quite a lot (in competition) and never actually stepping up so it’s good to be competitive again.”
He believes the selection battle for London will go right to the wire.
“I don’t think there’s really an order as such. Everyone’s all so close, we’re swapping and changing, training session by training session, not even race by race,” added Kenny, who believes Hoy was not in top form.
“He (Hoy) was off a bit at the nationals, at the World Cup and here I was able to take advantage of a few little mistakes he’s made in the races.
“There’s nothing in it. And you’ve got Matt (Crampton) as well, he’s a real quality sprinter.
“I think it will come down to the last minute to make sure we get the right guy.”
Hoy said his relative lack of competition in the past year had been his undoing.
“I would like to be in better shape right now, race-wise,” said the Scot, who will defend his world keirin title here as of Saturday.
“Physically I feel fine but there’s a few small things I have to improve on. It’s very small margins.”
Bauge, who plans to retire after the 2012 Olympics, added: “I’ve done my job. I came here to defend my title and I did it.
“Winning three in a row is great but my ambition is to be Olympic champion in London. But it’s not won yet. From now until then, there’s still work to do. London will be my last bike race.”
Alcibiades tops in points
Colombia’s Avila Alcibiades stunned reigning champion Cameron Meyer of Australia to win the men’s points crown Friday.
Meyer, who had won the title the past two years, finished second to take the silver with Frenchman Morgan Kneisky making a late surge to secure the bronze ahead of Russian Alexander Khatuntsev.
Alcibiades lapped the field in the early stages to take 20 points and a huge lead on the peloton.
Despite his efforts during the 16 intermediate sprints ─ where five, four, two and one points are awarded to the first four finishers ─ Meyer could only finish on 25. Kneisky took the bronze with 23, three ahead of Khatuntsev.
Meyer was a marked man throughout the 40 km race, so making breaks on the peloton wasn’t an easy affair.
After Alcibiades had lapped the peloton, Meyer found himself being targeted by other South Americans, a fact the Colombian admitted after stepping off the top step of the podium.
“This is a fantastic win for me,” said Alcibiades, who is from Cali but started cycling at the age of 15 in Bogota.
“I’m only starting to realize now how much I owe the Chilean rider (Luis Mansilla) for this victory. In a way it’s like a victory for South America.”
Meyer admitted his disappointment but promised he would be back to reclaim the title at next year’s world championships in Melbourne.
“It’s definitely not the result I wanted, I wanted a third gold medal,” said Meyer, who will defend his world Madison crown here on Sunday.
“The Colombian rode a good race and deserved the win, he lapped the field and took the 20 points and later on in the race I didn’t have the legs to lap the field when I wanted to.
“Maybe I’ll get a chance to reclaim the title on home soil next year.”
Meyer said he got “zero” help from the peloton throughout the race, and when asked his opinion on the help afforded to Alcibiades, he was philosophical.
“When you’re in a gold medal position you’re going to look for any opportunity for people to help you,” he added.
“Colombia’s a deceiving little country. You normally look to the big track nations as your main opponents, but all credit to him, he took the lap on us and the 20 points.”