Cycling: Britain celebrates golden finale to Hoy story

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The Independent Online

George Watson's School in Edinburgh counts a record-breaking Scottish rugby union captain and a former government minister among its most notable ex-pupils. As of last night, it was also able to boast an Olympic champion among its old boys as Chris Hoy won the gold medal here in the one-kilometre track cycling time trial.

Following the lead set by his fellow Scot, Shirley Robertson, who won Britain's first gold in the sailing regatta on Thursday, Hoy won a thrilling competition in which the Olympic record was broken four times. And just as Britain's sailors are looking likely to repeat the success they enjoyed in Sydney, so the track cyclists are threatening to build on the achievements of Jason Queally and company four years ago.

Cheered on by a large British contingent in a noisy crowd, including a group waving a flag bearing the words "the real McHoy", the 28-year-old Scot kept his nerve as he watched rider after rider set electrifyingly fast times. The combination of a fast track and warm conditions saw the riders fly around the tight circuit and throw down increasingly difficult challenges to those that followed them.

Hoy, as the world champion, was the last man out and responded magnificently to the vociferous British support. He led at every time check and in a competition that is always decided by mere fractions of a second, he had the luxury of a gap of 0.185sec between him and his closest challenger, the Frenchman Arnaud Tournant, as he crossed the line.

"I was in complete shock when I finished the race," Hoy said. "I looked at the scoreboard and saw the time, but it took a few seconds to sink in. The times were so fast. The crowd were fantastic. They helped push me on. To win a gold medal after Jason (Queally) won in Sydney is a dream come true."

"I didn't see (Arnaud) Tournant's time. When he was on the track I just kept my mind on my own ride and it paid off. I'm really happy. I knew I was in the best form of my life, particularly in the last few weeks.

"I really didn't expect in a 100 years to go that fast. Unbelievable. I'm going to be tired tonight but there is no reason I can't turn in some good rides tomorrow."

Hoy's fellow Scot Craig McLean, who finished seventh, said: "I knew it was always going to be hit or miss. I've gone all out but I'm disappointed with the time. But that's how it goes. If we can both recover well then we can definitely go for gold. Chris is going to be on a high."

The time trial was a one-off final, with 17 riders setting off according to their positions in the last world championships, ensuring that, in theory at least, the fastest men would go out last.

The fast track and warm conditions set up a see-saw contest in which times and records were repeatedly lowered.

Cuba's Ahmed Lopez Naranjo, the third man out, set the benchmark, establishing a lead which he held until MacLean went to the top of the leaderboard.

MacLean, a former coach to Hoy, had hopes of a medal until the Olympic record was broken four times in a row. Shane Kelly, fifth from last man out, was the first to beat the Games mark and the next rider, Germany's Stefan Nimke, promptly took another three-tenths of a second off the Australian's time.

The crowd were by now in full voice and when France's Tournant, the penultimate man, took yet another three-tenths of a second off the latest record the audience at the Olympic velodrome erupted.

Hoy, the last man to go, had had to sit and watch as the times got quicker and quicker. The Scot, however, refused to let any nerves get the better of him. He got a fast start, driving his large frame around the first bend, and led throughout, enjoying leads of 0.073sec, 0.141sec and 0.0171sec at the three time checks at 250m, 500m and 750m respectively.

The crowd, who could see Hoy was on target for the gold, responded and urged the Scot forward. He accelerated even faster in the last quarter of the race to win in 1min 0.711sec and by a margin of 0.0185sec from Tournant.

It was a triumph for a man who has spent much of the last 20 years on his bike. Hoy started riding BMX bikes when he was seven-years-old and has been competing ever since. He was a member of Britain's highly successful track cycling team at the Sydney Olympics and has been one of the world's leading track cyclists for a number of years. He is the current world champion and world No.1.

Hoy, who also represented his country at rowing, is an Edinburgh man through and through. He attended the school where rugby union's Hastings brothers, Gavin and Scott, and the former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind are also former pupils.

He spent a year at St Andrews University but came back to his home city to study applied sports science because it gave him the opportunity to do more cycling.

There is promise of plenty more British success in the velodrome, beginning with today's men's individual pursuit final races.

Bradley Wiggins, who broke the Olympic record in qualifying, is guaranteed at least a silver as he goes into a gold medal ride-off against Australia's Brad McGee. Wiggins, the 2003 world champion, was the fastest man on the track yesterday. Another Briton, Rob Hayles, who races against Spain's Sergi Escobar today for the bronze, rode the third fastest time.

Britain's Victoria Pendleton, a comparative novice at this level, set a personal best in the women's 500m time trial but could finish only sixth, gold going to the Australian, Anna Meares. China's Yonghua Jiang took the silver and Natallia Tsylinskaya, of Belarus, the bronze.