Laura Trott experienced the unfamiliar feeling of returning from a Track World Championships without a gold medal as Great Britain failed to win a title for the first time since 2001.
After two silver medals in the opening four days of competition in Saint-Quentin-En-Yvelines, near Paris – both in the team pursuits on day two – all hopes turned to Trott in the six-discipline omnium. But the five-time world champion and double London 2012 gold medallist was playing catch-up after placing 13th in the opening scratch race on Saturday and finished well adrift of Australia’s Annette Edmondson.
Britain had one last opportunity in the men’s Madison, a non-Olympic discipline and track cycling’s equivalent of the wacky races, but a commendable effort by Owain Doull and Mark Christian went unrewarded.
It means Britain, the once dominant nation of track cycling, have three silver medals from the penultimate Track World Championships prior to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Britain last failed to win a gold in Antwerp in 2001, while this was their smallest haul since the 2003 Track World Championships in Stuttgart, when they won one medal of each colour.
Trott, beaten in the team pursuit for the first time at her fifth World Championships, was “gutted” after missing out on the rainbow jerseys she coveted. But the 22-year-old from Cheshunt vowed to “come back flying at the next worlds,” which take place in London next March, after a third successive world silver in cycling’s equivalent of the heptathlon.
She said: “London’s massive, isn’t it? It’s going to be a home crowd, a home track. It will be about performing there. I’ve always tended to perform in front of a home crowd. That will be a massive target for me.”
Olympic champion Jason Kenny, Trott’s fiance, would have been expected to be in contention in the sprint, won by Gregory Bauge of France yesterday, but exited in the first round on Saturday. Trott said: “I feel sorry for him. I guess he just got a bit unlucky. He’s a bit disappointed. These things happen. We’d rather they happen now than in a year and a half’s time.”
Kenny’s exit piled expectation on Trott, who won world and Olympic omnium gold in 2012. Asked if she felt the pressure of delivering Britain’s first gold, she added: “A little bit. I tend to try to put that to the back of my mind. I’ll try my hardest no matter what. Whether I was winning or whether I was last, I would have tried my best.”
Trott resumed yesterday in third after winning the second and third disciplines, the three-kilometres individual pursuit and the elimination race. She moved up to second after placing fifth in the fourth discipline, the 500metres time-trial, and was third in the penultimate discipline, the flying lap.
But Edmondson won both disciplines to take a 14-point lead into the concluding points race. Instead of chasing gold, Trott found her silver medal position under threat from Kirsten Wild, but she finished behind the Dutchwoman on the final sprint to cling on to second overall.
Edmondson finished with 192 points, Trott with 176 and Wild with 175.
Trott added: “You’ve always got a target on your back once you have won. People don’t let you move as freely as you’d like to. I definitely think it is harder to stay at the top. Hats off to people like Sir Chris [Hoy].”
Hoy won 11 world titles and six Olympic gold medals, but since his retirement in April 2013, Britain’s aura of invincibility has slipped.
Trott’s team pursuit squad lost for the first time since December 2010, ending the run of four straight world titles.
In the men’s Madison, Doull and Christian took a lap early on to lead but, roared on by a partisan crowd, French pair Bryan Coquard and Morgan Kneisky won gold by one point from Italy and Doull and Christian finished ninth. Jess Varnish was hampered by overnight illness as she failed to advance to the semi-finals of the women’s Keirin, won by Australia’s Anna Meares.