Cycling: Garner is just too hot to handle as the Brit pack comes of age
Far from the usual partying that goes with the coming of age, Leicestershire's Lucy Garner celebrated her 18th birthday with another World Championships gold medal in the junior women's road-race here yesterday.
As if Elinor Barker's time trial gold on Tuesday in the same category was not enough of an indication that Britain's women's cycling would have a hugely promising future if only there was a British trade team to support them, Garner crossed the finish line with a Mark Cavendish type margin of several bike lengths.
As sprints go, this was the type of victory that brooked no competition and confirmed that Garner's equally convincing win in a bunch gallop last year in Denmark was anything but a fluke.
Just as in 2011, Garner had nothing but thanks for her team-mates' hard work in putting her in pole position for victory, most notably the way Barker paced her all the way up the final climb of the Cauberg and then kept her at the spearhead of the pack – over a kilometre in total.
"I couldn't have asked for a better person to do that to than the world time-trial champion and I really wouldn't have won without her and the rest of the team," said Garner, whose fingernails were painted with the Union flag. "It was difficult early on, there were a lot of crashes and my chain shipped at one point and they [my other team-mates] brought me back up and kept me out of trouble."
After starting riding a bike aged eight thanks to her father – curiously enough, on a penny farthing – Garner said that in more recent years "I've done quite a lot of racing internationally, but for some of the other [British riders] who haven't stepped up and race here so we could get a medal here was just amazing."
Just as when Nicole Cooke claimed gold in the 2008 Olympics – arguably British women's cycling's greatest success to date on the road – with a huge shout of delight as she crossed the finish, Garner celebrated her win with a roar so loud that it could probably be heard back in the team hotel in Maastricht. But there are other, perhaps more significant echoes between Garner's victory and the Welshwomen's triumph.
The last rider to take two junior world's road titles in a row was Cooke, in 2001 and 2002. And as Garner and Barker both head for the senior women's category next year, it will be intriguing to see whether they can raise the bar even higher. For now, at the very least, they have set the tone for the seniors – with the women racing today and the men's title at stake tomorrow.
On paper Britain's chances are best in the women's event. Even if 2012 Olympic silver medallist Lizzie Armitstead's non-participation because of illness deprives GB of its top sprinter, both Cooke and climbing and time-trial star Emma Pooley are leading favourites.
In tomorrow's men's race, the championships flagship event, Mark Cavendish is defending champion, but he has said that his chances of repeating his 2011 victory in Copenhagen on Holland's far hillier course are "non-existent".
"I can't win," said Cavendish. "But I'm here out of respect for the [world champion's] jersey and because I'll be wearing race number one in the colours of your national team."
Cavendish will almost certainly take on the role of team worker – just as he did in the Tour de France for Bradley Wiggins. But even though Britain are bigger outsiders than they were in Denmark, there are hopes that a climber like Jonathan Tiernan-Locke, the recent Tour of Britain winner, will be in the mix.
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