Track worlds: Hammer rides to 15th career medal

Sarah Hammer rides to her 15th career world championship medal in points race behind Britain's Elinor Barker.

HONG KONG (AFP) — Britain’s Elinor Barker won the women’s points race at the UCI World Track Cycling Championships after a gripping duel with America’s Sarah Hammer on Sunday. The silver medal was the 33-year-old American’s 15th career podium finish in world championship racing, but it was her first medal in the points race event.

Dutch rider Kirsten Wild finished third in the 100-lap points race. Barker picked up Britain’s second title in Hong Kong after Katie Archibald’s win in the omnium.

“I’ve been unbelievably supported in order to try to win this,” Barker said at the Hong Kong Velodrome. “After the Olympics I had a meeting with about four of the coaches and staff members and said ‘I have a new goal, I want to win the points race at the worlds.'”

Barker won a gold medal in the 2016 Olympics team pursuit, beating Hammer’s U.S. team in the Rio Games with a world record-setting ride.

“Instantly they were like ‘Yeah, we think you can do it’. They gave me the space and the focus I needed,” Barker added.

Barker looked like she would have to settle for her third silver medal in Hong Kong before she pipped Hammer, an eight-time world champion, with a strong finish.

The Briton crucially picked up 20 points for gaining a lap with just four of the 100 laps to go, winning the first individual world title of her career. Both riders took two laps on the field, with Barker taking points in five intermediate sprints to win the gold medal with 59 points, eight more than Hammer.

“Hammer demonstrated why she is the champion she is,” said Jim Miller, USA Cycling VP of athletics. “What an amazingly gritty performance.”

Women’s points race

1. Elinor Barker (GB) 59 points
2. Sarah Hammer (US) 51
3. Kirsten Wild (Nl) 35