It had to happen. After five days in which all of Britain's big hitters had struck gold at the world track championships, a fancied home rider was finally beaten at the Manchester Velodrome yesterday. If Victoria Pendleton was disappointed not to win the keirin, her silver medal – not to mention the golds she had won in the individual and team sprints earlier in the week – should be more than adequate compensation.
Pendleton was attempting to defend the three golds she had won at last year's world championships and had been looking good to bring the week to a glorious conclusion in the final event. The 27-year-old from Bedfordshire had ridden well in the earlier stages of the keirin, in which riders follow a pace-making motor bike for five and a half of the eight laps, but lost out to the American Jennie Reed in the final. Although Pendleton led on the final lap she had had to make up a lot of ground from the back of the field and was caught in the final straight.
The sprint is the only one of Pendleton's three specialities that is an Olympic discipline. She took the gold in that event on Saturday in imperious style, disposing of Reed in the semi-finals and then winning the final with two contrasting victories over Simona Krupeckaite. After holding off the Lithuanian's late challenge on the final bend in the first race, she timed perfectly her own run from behind in the second.
Pendleton said she expected Shuang Guo, beaten by Krupeckaite in the semi-finals, and other Chinese riders to challenge strongly in the Olympics. "Shuang Guo is very strong," she said. "She's training with one of the best French sprint coaches. I expect her to make great improvements. I trained with her in Switzerland and I know she's determined that this will be one of the big goals of her career."
The Briton believes she can improve her own tactics. "I'm still working on it," she said. "It's definitely the area I'm least confident in. I know that I can trust my legs, but I'm still working on my head. It's a good thing that I've got Jan van Eijden [a former world sprint champion] working with me. He's a great tactician and I feel that I'm learning more and more."
Saturday's racing brought two other British golds. Chris Hoy won the keirin to add to his individual sprint gold and team sprint silver, while Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish won a thrilling madison. It was Wiggins' third gold of the week after his triumph in the individual and team pursuits.
Britain's final medal tally was nine golds and two silvers, with the Dutch closest to them on three golds. Matt Crampton came desperately close to winning another home medal in yesterday's one-kilometre time trial, won by the Dutchman Teun Mulder, but was edged out by the final rider, Francois Pervis. Lizzie Armitstead finished seventh in the women's scratch race, won by Eleonora van Dijk, while Steven Burke was sixth in the omnium, won by Hayden Godfrey.
Wheels of fortune: Britain's long roll of honour from Manchester
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Victoria Pendleton, Shanaze Reade
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Keirin, PendletonReuse content