Slower Obree claims British title hat-trick

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Graeme Obree completed a hat-trick of British pursuit titles last night, but was six seconds off world record pace in his 4,000 metres final at the National Centre in Manchester.

After his Monday qualifier that cut 12 seconds from his British best, and brought him within two seconds of his world record time of 4min 20.894sec, there were plans to try for the record.

Instead, he returned 4:26.501 after catching his rival, Nottingham's Bryan Steel, with three and a half laps remaining in the 16-lap final raced in steamy conditions on the pounds 9m indoor track.

"I have exceeded my expectations, and that is my World Championship place assured for me," Obree said. "I was hoping to get close to the record. I hoped that it would be on, but the air pressure was exceptionally low on Monday. In the final it was more like Scotch broth than the consomme of the previous day. It was easier doing the 4:22 ride than 4:26 in the final."

Obree was presented with his championship jersey and gold medal by Chris Boardman, the world and Olympic champion at this discipline.

Boardman, walking with the aid of a crutch, after breaking his ankle and wrist on the first day of the Tour de France, had watched the day's action from the spectator seats.

Obree discarded the Die Continentale colours he had ridden in his first two rides for a royal blue jersey. His business manager, Frank Quinn, explained that his only sponsor now was the wheel-making firm of Specialised. "The Die Continentale was a handshake job. There was never a contract," Quinn said. "Now we have something to sell, but before these championships we had only fresh air."

"I want to be a long-term athlete so I need a long-term major sponsor," Obree said.

Yorkshire's Sally Boyden raced to her second national title in four days when winning the women's 30-kilometre points race. Boyden also won the national 800m grass-track championship last Saturday.

NATIONAL TRACK CHAMPIONSHIPS (Manchester) 4,000 metres pursuit final: G Obree (Sco, PCA) 4min 26.6501sec caught B Steel (Team Chilwell). Bronze medal: R Hayles (Computer Personnel) 4:34.136 bt M Illingworth (Team Clean) 4:37.043.

Women's 30km points final: 1 S Boyden (Swaledale) 44 pts; 2 M Lawrence (Rockingham Forest) 21; 3 V Filsell (VC Londres) one lap behind, 23 points.