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LONDON, Feb 18, 2012 (AFP)—Four-time Olympic champion Sir Chris Hoy showed Britain the way to gold success in the London velodrome with a
stunning, top-speed display of keirin riding here on Saturday.
On the third and penultimate day of the final World Cup event of the season, Hoy coasted through the first round of the competition and won his
second-round heat in which teammate Matthew Crampton crashed out. Hoy, who won triple gold in Beijing in the sprint, team sprint and keirin,
had to come from behind in the final after New Zealand’s Simon Van Velthooven attempted to upstage him by taking off with just over two laps to go. But the Scot, sitting wisely on the wheel of Frenchman Mickael Bourgain, kept his composure before picking up the pace and moving into contention in the final lap to squeeze the victory out at the finish.
In the absence of Australia’s reigning world champion Shane Perkins, German Rene Enders finished in second with Bourgain third.
Hoy’s victory secured him the keirin World Cup crown, and with barely six months to the Olympics — when he will bid to defend all three of his titles—he also got a taste of the kind of atmosphere he can expect.
“It doesnt feel like a World Cup, it feels more important and bigger, but what a buzz to get that reaction from the crowd. When you cross the line it’s phenomenal,” said Hoy. “I had a couple of game plans and that was plan B. I knew that Bourgain was going to be a threat, he looked strong in his semi, so I let him do the chasing of the Kiwi and the German rider.
“I had to choose the moment to go and when you go, you give it everything. I believe I hit 78.1km an hour in that race, and that’s the highest I’ve ever hit in a keirin race before. You can’t ask for more than that.”
After finishing third with Olympic champions Britain in the men’s team sprint on Friday, when world champions Germany humbled the French, Hoy will now turn his attention to dominating the tough individual sprint tournament on Sunday.
While Hoy’s performance had the 6,000-capacity crowd off their seats, the velodrome was hushed into silence when Olympic sprint champion Victoria Pendleton failed to medal in her pet event. Having won the women’s team sprint, a new Olympic event, in world-record time with Jess Varnish on Friday, Pendleton was eliminated 2-1 from the individual sprint semis by Australian Anna Meares. Meares, who took silver in Beijing and, last year, beat Pendleton to take her first world title, was then humbled in the final 2-0 by another Beijing podium finisher, China’s Guo Shuang.
Meares admitted her earlier efforts left her with hardly any juice in the tank for the final, but was buoyed to have raced in Olympic-like conditions. “We really pushed each other to the limits and unfortunately I think I paid for it in the medal rounds,” Meares said. “But that’s what you’ve got to do at these sorts of competitions, you’ve got to find another level, you’ve got to challenge yourself and I believe I did that tonight.”
The hugely partisan crowd was given another reason to cheer when Joanna Rowsell beat Alison Shanke of New Zealand to win the women’s individual pursuit, which is no longer an Olympic event.
In the final Olympic event of the night, Colombia’s Juan Esteban Arango held on to the lead he built early in the six-race omnium to win the new Olympic event ahead of Ho Sung Cho of Korea and Canada’s Zach Bell. France’s Bryan Coquard, who finished fifth, secured the World Cup jersey in the event.