reports from Manchester
Graeme Obree has travelled the world in search of a fast time, but a quick trip down the M6 to Manchester did the trick yesterday. There, the Scot came within two seconds of the world 4,000 metres pursuit record he set to win the world title two years ago. With a time of 4min 22.618sec, he cut 12 seconds from his British record, and was the fastest qualifier by nearly seven seconds for the semi-finals of the British championship.
Yesterday's performance had him shaking his head. "I could not believe it," he said. Doug Dailey, the national coach, said: "Graeme has exceeded all the standards - 4:25 would be a medal-winning performance at the World Championships."
Obree must retain his title to ensure a place in the World Championship team for Bogota in September, but with the current champion, Chris Boardman, sidelined because of his Tour de France injuries, he is Britain's No 1 hope again. Yesterday, he covered the final kilometre in 1min 3.3sec - the world kilometre record is 1:02.09.
Obree qualified for the final later when he clocked 4min 28.9sec. He came close to catching Matt Illingworth, who had started the 16-lap ride in the opposite straight, but then slackened his pace and cruised to the finish. In today's final he will meet Bryan Steel, who snatched victory from Rob Hayles by less than five-tenths of a second.
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