Cycling: Clay sprints to his first national title

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Jon Clay, cycling's man for all seasons, won a British track title in his ''rookie'' year yesterday at the National Centre in Manchester, but it needed a tie-breaker, writes Robin Nicholl.

He and Bryan Steel finished equal on points, but the verdict went to the Yorkshireman because he won three of the intermediate sprints, one more than Steel, in the Midland Bank 40km points final. "It's my first national title," Clay said. "It's nice, but this weekend is more important to me."

Clay now turns to the British mountain bike championships in Shropshire. Three days later he returns to road racing to defend his lead in the sprint competition of the Grand Prix series in Portsmouth.

He began track racing this year when the pounds 9m Manchester covered track, Britain's first, opened. His surprise victory ended the six-year reign of Simon Lillistone, and gave Clay his first gold medal.