Cycling: Young star Becky James claims fourth gold


It has been an instructive five days for Britain's young pretenders at the National Track Championships in Manchester and none more so than for Becky James. The 20-year-old from Abergavenny yesterday claimed her fourth gold of the week to lay out in simple terms her credentials to be considered as Victoria Pendleton's heir.

It gets tougher from now. Next month she competes for Britain in the opening round of the World Cup series in Colombia. There are three rounds in all and then comes the world championships in Minsk in February in which James will hope to take the vacancy left by Pendleton.

Yesterday, James wrapped up her busy schedule by retaining her keirin title to add to victories in the 500m time trial, the sprint and Saturday's win in the team sprint with sister Rachel.

James went to the Olympics but only as a reserve and it is the rider chosen ahead of her, Jess Varnish, with whom she will contest for the lead sprint role. Varnish – like the rest of the Olympians she was not competing here – was left without a medal in London after Pendleton's disqualification in the team sprint but is the woman in possession. She only turns 22 next month – add impressive rides during the nationals from Danielle Khan, only 17, and Victoria Williamson, beaten by James in the sprint – and it suggests a production line in good working order.

To get the best out of them, plus Lucy Garner and Elinor Barker, who took senior national titles to add to their junior world crowns, Pendleton believes there needs to be more female influence on the sidelines. Pendleton had an often troubled relationship with the all-male coaching set-up.

She said this weekend: "If I could change one thing in British cycling it would be to put an elite female in a high-up role. That, in one single move, would be the most helpful. [Women's] needs and requirements are sometimes overlooked. A woman is more likely to have a different emotional intelligence to recognise if someone is struggling. I felt I had to become more male in my approach to survive, rather than the sport catering to me. A lot of girls in the sport feel like this."

There were also wins yesterday for Barker, Emily Kay and Amy Roberts and Peter Mitchell, Luke Olivia and David Daniell in their respective team pursuits – Paralympian Jody Cundy was part of the team that won bronze – Garner and Harriet Owen in the madison and Simon Yates in the omnium.

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