IT WAS a respectable team performance with one outstanding contribution. Laura Trott, the 22-year old who was unheard of at the equivalent stage of the last Olympic cycle, took her second win of the track cycling World Cup in the London velodrome yesterday with a typically gutsy and skilful display in the six-event omnium.
Trott is unbeaten in major competitions on this, her local track, after her two gold medals at the London Olympics. The memory spurred her on, she said. “I don’t want to lose on this track, not after what I did at London 2012. That just gives me that little bit extra.”
But Trott always seems to have that little bit extra: speed, determination and strength that belies her diminutive size. After defending her lead in the final event, the points race, by shadowing her closest rival, Belgium’s Jolien d’Hoore, she expressed some disappointment that she hadn’t been able to win all six disciplines. As it was, she had to be content with victories in ‘only’ the first two, the scratch race and pursuit.
“I’m so happy,” said Trott. “The last few days have been incredible. It’s probably one of the most enjoyable omniums I’ve done. The home crowd was incredible. I have so many family and friends here – you want to win in front of them, of course you do.”
It is an indication of how things have changed since 2012 that she has gone from obscurity to talismanic figure. She had a flashback, she said, when, in the team hotel, “we had Ross Edgar, Jason Queally, Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton, and I thought, it’s the Olympic team, back together again!” Hoy and Pendleton both retired after the Olympics, of course, and in their absence it is Trott, more than any other rider, who looks likely to fill the leadership vacuum.
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Shane Sutton, the British performance director, paid his own tribute at the end of a meeting in which Trott contributed to 50 per cent of the team’s gold medals – there were four in total. While she does not yet have the presence or influence of Hoy or Pendleton, she sets an example with her hunger and spirit. “She is never happy with where she is at,” said Sutton. “She wants to win everything.
“Everybody admires her, she’s a bubbly character,” Sutton continued. “Very rarely does she get beaten. I wouldn’t say it was our greatest ever win in the team pursuit in that final but the maturity that someone like Laura showed under pressure; any other team in the world with four laps to go under that kind of pressure would have capitulated. That’s the sort of leadership we’re looking for.”
Sutton was talking of a team pursuit final in which the four riders began to fragment, with Scotland’s Katie Archibald and Trott proving too strong for their team-mates. Trott helped to steady the ship as they maintained an unbeaten run that stretches all the way back to December 2010.
If there has been a breakthrough for Trott it is in the bunch races, the scratch and points race. She says the turning point came at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. “I’d never have expected to win the Commonwealth Games points race. That was a massive boost for me.”
Her main challenge is that her insatiable appetite for winning can sometimes get the better of her. “I want to win every race I do,” she said, “I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not. Shane doesn’t think it is because then if I lose I’m downhearted. He said to me once, it’ll be my desire that kills me, not that I don’t have the ability.”
As well as Trott, Sutton praised the male endurance riders, Mark Christian and Owain Doull, the unexpected gold medallists in Saturday’s madison. But, less than two years from the Rio Olympics, there are areas of concern, notably with the male sprinters.
Callum Skinner, the Scot who had a tough team sprint on Friday after falling ill, withdrew from yesterday’s sprint. Jason Kenny and Phil Hindes were also below par. “It is a concern,” said Sutton. “Let’s not hide behind the fact people have been ill. I believe you turn up here and you pull on the jersey and you perform.”
At the equivalent point before Beijing few had heard of Kenny, yet he won gold in 2008. Same with Trott before London. But Sutton doesn’t expect anyone to emerge between now and Rio. “I don’t think we have any left-fielders this time like the Jasons going into Beijing or Laura going into London,” he said. “We’re pretty set as a squad.”
There are two names who may still come into the picture: Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins. But it will be on their terms. “You are talking about two of the greatest cyclists of all time from a British perspective,” said Sutton. “Any time is the right time, and the right time is when they think they are ready.”
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