Sir Chris Hoy has proved on a regular basis that he is the ultimate big-race rider and the triple gold medal winner from the Beijing Olympics rose to the occasion once again last night.
Racing in the same Copenhagen velodrome where he suffered the worst crash of his career 13 months earlier, the Scot won Britain's first gold medal at this year's world track championships with a typically bold display of sprinting.
Hoy's 10th world championship gold came in the keirin, the eight-lap scrap that is one of track cycling's most spectacular disciplines. It was in the same event at last year's World Cup meeting in the Ballerup Super Arena that Hoy suffered a serious hip injury that forced him to miss the 2009 world championships.
As if Hoy needed reminding of the perils of the keirin, in which riders sprint for the finish after five and a half laps behind a motorised pace-setter, it came in the first round, when he was brought down by Malaysia's Josiah Ng Onn Lam. The Scot recovered to win with something to spare when the race restarted and then led all the way in his second heat. Matt Crampton, his British colleague, missed out on a place in the final when he was outpaced in the second round.
The final was brutally competitive. Hoy, allowing Germany's Maximilian Levy to set the pace, was in third place two laps from home but then surged to the front and stayed there, holding off a late challenge from Malaysia's Azizulhasni Awang. It was his third keirin world championship gold.
"That was such a hard thing to do," Hoy said afterwards. "It's lovely to be back here and back in the winning way again. The standard's going up and up all the time. It makes you work harder. There's no room for complacency, no room to relax or to expect the same performances without more work."
Elsewhere there was further evidence of the progress that Britain's challengers have been making since Dave Brailsford's squad swept all before them in Beijing two summers ago. Australia, who took their tally to four golds in the first two days, are looking particularly strong.
Joanna Rowsell, Lizzie Armitstead and Wendy Houvenaghel were foiled in their attempt to win a third successive world championship gold for Britain in the women's team pursuit – which will be an Olympic event in London in two years' time – when they finished runners-up to Australia's Ashlee Ankudinoff, Sarah Kent and Josephine Tomic. New Zealand, remarkably, took nearly a third of a second off the world record when they beat the United States in the bronze medal race in 3min 21.552sec.
In the women's team sprint event Australia broke the world record twice en route to the gold. Having qualified in a record time of 33.037sec, Anna Meares and Kaarle McCulloch went on to win the gold against China in another record of 32.923sec. Britain's Victoria Pendleton and Jess Varnish, who are a new combination, missed out on a bronze medal when they were comfortably beaten by Lithuania.
Chris Newton, having finished fourth in the points race 24 hours earlier, again missed out on a medal when he came home fifth in the scratch race, which was won by Denmark's Alex Rasmussen. Taylor Phinney, of the United States, won the men's individual pursuit.
What is the keirin? Beginner's guide
You may have forgotten by now, but keirin was Britain's national sport for about 10 minutes of 2008. That was how long it took [the now Sir] Chris Hoy to claim gold at the Beijing Olympics, albeit in one of the most confusing sports we have ever been best at.
Competitors race each other on bikes, with two wheels. The other components are harder to fathom.
The race is usually 2km long, but for about three-quarters of this distance cyclists trail behind a pacer, with little chance to improve their starting position. They glide along for five laps at speeds comparable to Usain Bolt taking a jog in the park, until the pacer drops off and the race really begins.
The finale is undoubtedly exciting, but the preamble is seemingly pointless. But slow starter or not, keirin will be au current again for 10 minutes today, as always when Britons have a chance to be the best. Martha KelnerReuse content