It will surely never get better than this. Britain's extraordinary success story at the World Track Championships here took on another dimension yesterday as three more gold medals took the team's tally for the week to nine out of the 14 awarded so far.
Matching last year's seven World Championship golds had seemed a tall order, but Dave Brailsford's superb squad just get better and better. It is hard to imagine there has ever been a more dominant performance by a British team at a world championships in any sport, and their combined brilliance offers the prospect of even greater glory in this summer's Olympic Games.
Yesterday's heroes were Bradley Wiggins – claiming his third gold of the week – and Mark Cavendish, who combined to win the madison, Victoria Pendleton, who claimed her second in the sprint, and Chris Hoy, who won his second in the keirin.
The highest drama came in the madison, one of track cycling's most spectacular events. It is contested over 50 kilometres by teams of two men, but with only one rider in the race at any time. Points are awarded for sprints and, crucially, for lapping the field. The Britons had earned plenty in the early sprints but two attempts to gain a lap had failed before Wiggins launched a decisive attack with some 35 laps to go. The pack tried desperately to hold the Britons off, but with the capacity crowd roaring them on they caught them with 20 laps to go. The Germans made a late challenge, but Wiggins and Cavendish held on in the final sprint.
Wiggins, who had already won golds in the individual and team pursuit, was asked how it feltto win a third. "The first twoare easier to predict, but the madison is such a lottery," he said. "Crashes and a lot else can happen. It's a huge relief to get it done and come away with gold, though this will make it even harder for us at the Olympics."
Pendleton, 27, had been hugelyimpressive on her way to the gold-medal race, winning her semi-final against Jennie Reed in emphatic style. Simona Krupeckaite offered a stiffer challenge in the best-of-three final, but Pendleton won the first race from the front, holding off the Lithuanian's challenge around the final bend, and showed impeccable timing in coming from behind to win the second.
Having won three world titles last year and already successfullydefended the team sprint here, Pendleton said this was the most enjoyable of her six world golds. "I had a lot of pressure to back up what I did last year," she said. "This showed that it wasn't a one-off. It confirmed I have the legs to be the best in the world."
When the Olympic authorities dispensed with Hoy's speciality, the one-kilometre time trial, the Athens gold medallist thought the team sprint would offer his best chance of success in Beijing this summer. He also took up the keirin and individual sprint, but mainly with a view to sharpening up his speed. Hoy's subsequent performances, however, have made him one of the favourites for all three Olympic crowns. The Scot won silver in the team sprint on the opening day here and on Friday claimed his first major individual sprint title when he became the first British winner of the blue riband of track cycling for 54 years.
The keirin, in which riders jostle for position behind a pace-setting motorbike for five-and-a-half of the eight laps, requires pure speed as well as tactical awareness. Hoy took no risks in the first two rounds of the gold- medal race, winning all three from the front.
Contesting the last final of the day, Hoy said he felt the team's earlier successes had lessened the burden on him. "When a team's performing there's less pressure on you," he said. "If the team haven't won a single gold medal then that's when you might feel a weight on your shoulders."
In today's final session Pendleton will have the chance to provide a golden climax in the women's keirin. It would be a fitting end to a glorious week.Reuse content