Track Cycling World Championships: Joanna Rowsell reaps reward for individual pursuit of gold

Second title for Briton to add to team triumph

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The Independent Online

A thrilled Joanna Rowsell recovered from a chest infection to claim a first individual Track Cycling World Championships title. After four team pursuit world titles – the first coming in 2008 and the most recent coming on day two here in Colombia – Rowsell upset the defending champion, Sarah Hammer of the US on the third day to win the women’s 3km individual pursuit, a title she has long coveted, and claim Britain’s second gold of the championships.

“It means the world to me,” said the 25-year-old from Cheam. “The team is obviously the priority – that’s what we train for, and I’ll live and die for those girls – but it was a really good chance for me to come here and do an individual event the day after the team pursuit. This has been a personal goal for me for a while, I just can’t believe I pulled it off.

“I love having a big target to work towards. I missed the worlds last year out of personal choice just to have a break, but I’ve been raring to go for this ever since this time last year. This time last year I was training with this in mind.”

In February Rowsell spent a period isolated from the rest of the squad. “I was ill with a chest infection two weeks ago so I missed three team training sessions, which in hindsight perhaps did me good, gave me a bit more rest,” she said.

“I wasn’t bed-bound, but I couldn’t train. I get pursuiter’s cough and that’s common, but I have asthma and it just affected me really badly and developed into a chest infection.”

The enforced break did not seem to have affected Rowsell as she recorded a personal best of 3min 30.318sec in the non-Olympic event to beat Hammer, who clocked 3:31.535.

“I woke up this morning feeling good, which is unusual after two 4k team pursuits the day before, riding from man (sic) one,” she said. “I was really pleased with my qualifying ride, just two tenths off my PB [personal best], but I can’t believe that ride just now. That’s a new PB for me on pretty much an outdoor track, with a five-spoke wheel and cooler conditions – everybody else went slower. I can’t believe I’ve done it, I can’t believe I went that quick.”

Becky James was unable to defend her women’s sprint title after being beaten 2-0 by her British team-mate Jess Varnish in the quarter-finals. Varnish won the second bout after tumbling to the track when stationary on the back straight. James shared a hug with her team-mate afterwards,  and was angry at herself for her tactical selection.

The 22-year-old from Abergavenny, who responded by winning the race for fifth, said: “I’ve no idea why we decided to go for those tactics. It’s upsetting, because I wanted to defend my world title, especially after qualifying second. My legs felt great today.” James will bid to defend her keirin title today.

There were no hard feelings towards Varnish. “[We’re] really good friends off the track and worst enemies on the track,” James said. “That’s how sport is. We’ve both been practising track standing and slow riding together in Manchester. When I felt her hit my back wheel and I saw her tumble we both had a bit of a giggle.”

James was in good company as the Olympic champion, Anna Meares of Australia, was also eliminated. Her conqueror, Zhong Tianshi of China, meets Varnish in the semi-finals.

At the halfway point in the men’s omnium Britain’s London 2012 bronze medallist, Ed Clancy, was sixth, with France’s Thomas Boudat leading. Clancy won the flying lap, was 13th in the points race and eighth in the elimination race.