James Lawton: In a velodrome theatre where dreams die in seconds Sir Chris Hoy finds perfection for Team GB

Hoy's marauders were in unbreakable form. They seemed increasingly on fire

The Velodrome

We talk lightly about a rush of gold but what happened here last night, astonishingly and unforgettably, was something of a weightier order.

It was a one-man avalanche of the stuff. It was triggered by someone in pursuit of his fifth winning Olympic medal and, with some spectacular help from his young friends Jason Kenny and Philip Hindes, he took it as though it was nothing less than his right.

Sir Chris Hoy, at 36, had every reason to believe in that entitlement because when you put his night together in this tense arena which seemed to became a little steamier with each thrust of Hoy's ambition you had nothing less than a statement of competitive perfection.

This may be a big statement at the Games which have heard already so many claims about who is quite the great Olympian, but consider for a moment the nerveless progress of the understated man from Edinburgh to the top of the podium yet again. He nailed home the opening performance in the qualifying round when young Hindes – a bold replacement for Beijing hero Jim Staffe – slipped from his bike and was perhaps fortunate to win a restart. That could have left Hoy's attempt to add three more golds to the one from Athens and the three from Beijing in immediate ruins.

But Hindes held his nerve in the rerun, Kenny, a cyclist from Bolton who last night appeared to have borrowed the heart of Nat Lofthouse, the late Lion of Vienna, produced a withering leg and then Hoy came home with crushing momentum.

The clock said it was an Olympic record. But the senses suggested it was the first hook in a barrage to be launched at the fancied French team of Grégory Baugé, Kevin Sireau and Michael D'Almeida.

Hoy certainly unmasked that intention in his next outing, when Hindes, completely restored now after the horror of the aborted first ride, produced his great contribution of the night – a surge of power that left the final pummelling pace of Hoy another shattering blow to the morale of all opposition. It was another world record, another declaration that whoever stood in Hoy's way this night would have to go the very limits of both their speed and their nerve. Then the French appeared, a little tentatively, it has to be said.

They were right to be apprehensive. Hoy's marauders were now in unbreakable form. They seemed to be increasingly on fire. The French might have hope for a pause in the British momentum, they might have hoped for a little quarter. Instead they received the full weight of the Hoy claymore – another mighty blow. Hoy's men reeled off another world record, at 42.6 nearly half a second faster than the French.

For Hoy it meant that he had regained the lead over Bradley Wiggins in the accumulation of gold medals and drawn level with Sir Steven Redgrave. You could say when he returned to the podium he could scarcely have cared less. He had seized, superbly, another great moment and he would have this, too, for ever.

It was the most dramatic climax to a night on which Victoria Pendleton's despair had already told you all you needed to know about the savagely fine margins of her electric, hair-trigger sport. Diver Tom Daley was talking the other day about how quickly all your work can disappear with one fractional miscalculation. The elapsed time between ambition and failure, he said, was less than two seconds but here last night that seemed like a fairly luxurious time capsule when the world of the heroine of Beijing and her young partner, Jessica Varnish, fell apart.

They were heading quite brilliantly for a shoot-out for gold with the formidable Chinese pairing of Gong Jinjie and Guo Shuang when half the length Pendleton's front wheel went beyond that of her partner Varnish. The cruelty of it was that the 21-year-old from Bromsgrove had just produced a ride entirely in keeping with the quality of a night in which world and Olympic records were ripped apart. Some of an audience which included the Prime Minister, David Cameron, must have believed that by some miracle of democracy they had got their hands on the best ticket in town.

Pendleton was exhilarated by an opening ride to a world record, then made reflective by a countering burst of two from the Chinese before they apparently sauntered to the gold medal. Before the Chinese were also "relegated" for the same infraction, Pendleton fought unsuccessfully to stem the tears. She said, "I'm desperately disappointed for Jess because she has done a tremendous job getting this far. Her sprint today was the best of her life. I've no doubt she will be back in Rio and absolutely smash it.

"I'm sorry for disappointing all the people that came to support us and perhaps not offering the race that we could have done. I'm really sorry."

She could take it that the apology was accepted on a night when the watching world, surely, had a deeper sense of how close the great riders brush against glory and disaster.

Meanwhile, four British riders – Edward Clancy, Geraint Thomas, Steven Burke and Peter Kennaugh – broke their own world record in the qualifying round of the Team pursuit. They did it with an uncanny precision, a mellifluous, beautiful ride which said that here in this theatre of the most knife-edged battling there was also a place for the bike as an instrument of not inconsiderable art.

At least, that is, up to the moment of the reappearance of a certain, thunderous Sir Christopher Hoy.

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football Polish side was ejected from Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
news
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone