Fittingly the curtain came down on cycling’s European Championships with a Scottish medal for the Glasgow crowd to cheer in an event in which the legend whose name adorns the velodrome produced some of his most thrilling moments.
The all-action keirin became a speciality of Sir Chris Hoy and yesterday there was a glimpse into a possible future in which another Scot could write his name in lights on this quirky track-cycling favourite which goes from Derny-induced sedation to desperate dash. Jack Carlin, the 21-year-old from Paisley, had endured a frustrating return to his home track thus far after a mishap by colleague Philip Hindes scuppered the team sprint bid before it had even got going and he was then beaten in the bronze medal race of the individual sprint on Sunday.
That had been a gruelling rollercoaster of a day and there was more nip and tuck racing in all three keirin rounds before the Scot just managed to take the bronze by a whisker in the final.
“I messed up the tactics a little bit in the final but it showed the legs were there,” said Carlin after finishing behind men’s sprint silver medallist Stefan Botticher of Germany, who took gold, and Sebastien Vigier of France.
“I managed to hold on to the bronze and come away with something. I don’t think I would have been overly upset [if I had come away with nothing]. At the moment I’m just trying to focus on developing as a rider and build as many tactics as I can. But to go away with something in front of this crowd is good.”
It adds another major medal, and a first ever in the keirin, to Carlin’s haul in this breakthrough year after he took team and individual silver in the world championships earlier in the year before the same colour for Scotland in the men’s sprint at the Commonwealth Games.
The Carlin bronze lifted the crowd after the disappointment of watching the much-vaunted “dream team” of local darling Katie Archibald and Olympic champion superstar Laura Kenny fail to make the podium in the madison.
Archibald had won world gold for GB in the event this year with Emily Nelson, who had been a late stand-in for the injured Elinor Barker, so it was hoped that the lack of preparation time with Kenny, who was returning to her first major championships since having a baby, wouldn’t prove to be a problem.
Ultimately it did as the blockbuster duo didn’t quite gel and towards the end of the 120 laps they were left scrambling in vain for bronze.
Early on in the 12-sprint race, it looked to be unfolding as a battle between the Brits and the Dutch team of Amy Pieters and Kirsten Wild, who had beaten Archibald to omnium gold the previous evening.
However, a bold break by the Danish team of Amalie Diderikson and Julie Leth blew the race open as they took the 20-point lap gain bonus and never looked back as they took gold ahead of Russia and the Netherlands. “We didn’t have the level that was needed,” admitted Archibald, who still finishes these championships with team pursuit gold and silvers in the individual pursuit and omnium. “I still think the dedication that we have and the base we have we still have a big chance in Tokyo.”
Kenny couldn’t add a third gold on her major comeback and had to settle with her victories in the team pursuit, with Archibald, and her speciality elimination race.
“It was horrible,” said the four-time Olympic champion. “We made so many mistakes and in a race like that, you cannot do that. We were on the back foot from the word go and once we let that groove go, we weren’t ever going to get it back. The changes were horrendous. We were just getting caught out. We tend to be better when the race is strung out because we’ve got the speed to keep up.”
Matthew Walls won the men’s elimination race meaning Great Britain finished with a total of ten medals, four of them gold.