Bronze is no consolation for gallant Hayles

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The Independent Online

Rob Hayles gave British cycling a fifth medal as the world track championships reached its finale yesterday. He deserved another for his gallantry against the odds over the past six weeks.

Rob Hayles gave British cycling a fifth medal as the world track championships reached its finale yesterday. He deserved another for his gallantry against the odds over the past six weeks.

He raced to a bronze in the 4,000 metres pursuit at the Manchester velodrome where Britain also did itself a power of good on the organising side.

Another sell-out crowd in the 5,000 capacity stadium were on their feet as Hayles sent the British score to one gold, two silver, and two bronze, but it has been a tough campaign for him.

In Sydney, his saddle slipped when he was in sight of a pursuit bronze and then in the madison team race he crashed when two laps from a medal. He returned to Britain to hear that the medal strategy for the world championships meant that he and Bradley Wiggins could not resume their madison partnership.

There was no consolation for him in yesterday's medal. "It just makes it worse. I have been very stressed over the last 10 days, and when the alarm sounded in our hotel at 4.30am that did not help."

Yvonne McGregor's gold medal looked large on her tiny frame, and at 39 she could not resist saying, "It just shows age doesn't matter if you are determined enough."

She has hinted at potential for some years. A bronze in the Olympic pursuit raised the hopes of her coach Peter Keen, and with her customary start she had home hearts racing faster in the 3,000m pursuit final.

With two laps to go she went ahead of the German Judith Arndt, and the crowd rose to greet Britain's first woman pursuit champion since Beryl Burton's fifth gold 34 years ago.

"I would never have thought that it could have happened to someone like me. It's almost better than Olympic bronze," she said, adding that she would defend her crown next year in Antwerp, and then retire.

Her victory capped Britain's renaissance on the track where nine medals have been won since day one of the Olympics in Sydney, and she is not Britain's only world cycling champion this year.

There are three - an achievement that will send archivists checking for the last time. And they will have to go back to the beginning of the last century for anything comparable.

The crowd here was also introduced to Nicole Cooke, the Welsh teenager who won the junior world road race championship in Brittany earlier this month. Jason Queally, though, needed no introduction. Every time he appeared the crowd roared, and he responded by leading his Olympic Sprint team-mates, Chris Hoy and Craig MacLean, to a silver treble.

They won world silvers in Berlin last year, and in the Olympics, each time battling with France, and the French champion Arnaud Tournant admitted yesterday: "The gap is closing." After the silver performance, Chris Hoy summed up British resolve with: "next year..."

Frederic Magne retired from the track with his seventh world title. The Frenchman, dubbed the "angry little bull" because of his stocky build and will to win, regained the keirin sprint title with a last-lap charge. Magne beat the German Jens Fiedler who wrested the honours from him in 1998.

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