Cycling: Chris Hoy reigns supreme as GB cyclists excel at Track World Cup

Chris Hoy (L) celebrates with second-placed Maximilian Levy. Picture: Getty
Chris Hoy (L) celebrates with second-placed Maximilian Levy. Picture: Getty
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SIR Chris Hoy believes he is in his best form since his Beijing bounty of gold after a supreme showing at the Track World Cup at London’s Olympic Velodrome.

Hoy, who won three gold medals in the 2008 Games, completed a stunning performance by Great Britain in the Olympic test event with victory in the sprint to follow up his keirin triumph on day three and third place in the team sprint on Friday’s second day.

In all, Britain won eight medals from 10 Olympic events – four gold, one silver and two bronze – plus Joanna Rowsell’s gold in the non-Olympic individual pursuit.

On the final day yesterday, Hoy led the charge as the men’s team pursuit squad finished runners-up to arch-rivals Australia – who clocked the third fastest time in history – and Laura Trott claimed bronze in the multi-discipline omnium, but Victoria Pendleton had to settle for fifth in the keirin.

Once again, Hoy was the talisman, leaving no doubt that – although he is 36 on 23 March – he remains in peak condition. It was an ominous warning to his rivals ahead of August’s Olympic track competition.

The Scot said: “I was expecting some good performances, but this is the best I’ve been since Beijing. No question. I did my best performance in the team sprint last lap since Beijing. I did a 9.93 (seconds, in sprint qualifying) today and in the keirin last night I hit my fastest ever speed in that race (78.4kph).

“It’s not just the cold figures, it’s also how you approach the racing. I’ve been a bit more confident, taking the race by the scruff of the neck and I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Hoy also believes the British team can take a lot of confidence from their display in front of a 6,000-capacity partisan crowd ahead of April’s Track Cycling World Championships in Melbourne and the Olympics.

He said: “This is the best we’ve been as a team since Beijing. The fact we’ve been very good in a number of events on the Olympic track itself means you come back here and get that good vibe.

“It’s like racing in Manchester. We’ve got so many positive experiences to draw upon. We’ll benefit from this.”

Hoy, himself, took belief from coming from behind in the quarter-final to beat two-time world champion Gregory Bauge of France 2-1 before advancing 2-0 from the semi-finals at the expense of Robert Forstemann.Maximilian Levy, another German, was the opponent in the final and Hoy showed nerve to hold his line on the back straight and then his trademark acceleration to claim victory. Hoy added: “I dug deep and I knew with the inside line I could take him.”

Due to regulations, yesterday’s field was tougher than it will be come August and Hoy was thrilled with his success. He said: “The top guys are all here. To win this World Cup, more than any World Cup, this year, this is the one to do it. I’m really happy.”

Only one rider or team per nation can take part in each event in the Games, leaving Jason Kenny, Olympic silver medallist and current world champion, vying with Hoy for the British sprint place. Despite appearing to take the initiative in that duel, Hoy maintains Kenny – exactly 12 years his junior – is still a formidable rival. He said: “It’s not over by a long shot. Jason’s not going to lie down and accept it. He’s not far away.”

In the team pursuit final, the ‘Ashes’ duel did not disappoint as Jack Bobridge, Rohan Dennis, Alex Edmondson and Michael Hepburn won for world champions australia in three minutes 54.615 – the third fastest time in history. The British quartet of Ed Clancy, Geraint Thomas, Steven Burke and Peter Kennaugh finished in 3mins 56.330secs.

Australia’s time was behind only Britain’s world record of 3:53.314, set in winning gold in Beijing in 2008, and another effort by the hosts from November 2009. There was drama too, as Thomas ran into Kennaugh’s rear wheel and had to take evasive action.

Burke had slowed at the front, contributing to the near-pile up and Clancy had to fill the gap. “I hit the wheel and ended up nearly crashing,” said Thomas, who was satisfied with the performance, but not his own display. “I feel like I had a lot left at the end. As a team, that’s a good ride. We’ve definitely got a long way to go, but I’m confident that I’m going to get back to where I was.”

Trott’s bronze was secured by her victory in the final event of the omnium, the 500metres time-trial, as Sarah Hammer of the United States took gold.