Cycling: Elinor Barker sacrifice pays dividends as GB trio remain invincible


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The Independent Online

It was almost two years ago to the day that Laura Trott and Dani King last experienced defeat in a team pursuit at a World Cup event in Manchester.

On Wednesday night in Minsk, they showed no signs of an Olympic hangover as, along with the Welsh school student Elinor Barker, they continued Britain's remarkable hegemony in the event to take the team's first gold of these World Championships. Barker had attended just two days of school since Christmas for her A-level studies in biology and PE in an effort to focus on her first worlds and the sacrifice was repaid.

The trio, with an average age of just 20, were the quickest in qualifying, beating Australia by two seconds and backed that up in the final with another mature performance.

Annette Edmondson, Amy Cure and Melissa Hoskins went off fast but their British opposition were undeterred and stuck to the plan drilled into them by coach Paul Manning, himself a former world and Olympic champion in the event.

Trott proved the strongest of the riders, eating into the early deficit with a longer one-and-a-half lap turn out front after the first kilometre to tilt the advantage back to Britain, who have lost the world title in the event only once since it was added by the UCI to the World Championship programme in 2008.

Trott, who, like King, won a hat-trick of team pursuit world titles in the process, was bemused by the suggestion of a possible dip in form after the rigours of last year. She said: "No way," adding "Why wouldn't you want to win another stripy jumper?" in reference to the rainbow jersey awarded. "It's nice to have fresh faces. It's like fresh and new and it's a lot more enjoyable."

The race was historic in the sense that it was the last time it will be run over 3km. From next season, the women's pursuit will be moved in line with the men's to be contested over 4km, with four riders rather than three.

It capped a remarkable five months for Barker, who had been crowned world junior champion on the road in September, and has now achieved the same feat at senior level on the track.

"I feel really overwhelmed," she said. "I thought I was just riding around the Manchester Velodrome in a training ride and then we won. I just feel shocked. It is above and beyond what I've dreamt of. I've only been a senior a couple of months and I can't believe my luck."

Ireland's Martyn Irvine made history as the first Irishman since Harry Reynolds in 1896 to win a world track title for his country in a remarkable hour of racing for the 27-year-old. First, he took silver in the individual pursuit behind Australia's Michael Hepburn before digging deep to win the 15km scratch race. The result was all the more impressive as the Irish mainland does not possess an indoor velodrome.

Irvine, who has been training with the British team but on a shoestring budget, said: "It's some set-up. It put fire in my belly to do the best I could with the little I had. I'll guarantee I'm one of the least-funded guys on the podium. That makes it even sweeter."

This time a year ago, Becky James had just had her appendix removed, the latest in a catalogue of setbacks that effectively cost her any chance of riding at London 2012.

But going off first of 12 runners in the 500-metre time trial, she took six-tenths of a second off her personal best for a time of 34.133s and enough for bronze, with only Hong Kong's Lee Wai Sze and Miriam Welte, of Germany, able to better her effort.

James admitted that her boyfriend, the rugby player George North, had been nervously watching her compete on television in Rome as he prepares for the Six Nations game against Italy on Saturday. Of her own performance, she said: "I'm pretty shocked. I didn't expect to come away with a medal."

There was disappointment, though, in the team sprint when Philip Hindes, Jason Kenny and Kian Emadi surprisingly failed to make either medal race. Hindes' opening lap of 17.5sec left Emadi struggling to stay on and the trio ended up with only the sixth-fastest time, a disappointing result for two-thirds of the Olympic champions.


Brit watch: Medals

The women's team pursuit trio won Britian's first gold of the championships. Becky James took her second medal with bronze in the 500m time trial. Vicky Williamson, who won bronze in the team sprint with James, finished 11th.