Britain continued its domination of the tandem sprint events, while Jaco van Gass earned his second and third titles of the championships on the fourth and final day of competition at UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships in Milton, Canada, today (Sunday).
Sophie Thornhill and Helen Scott, and James Ball and Lewis Stewart both won their tandem sprint events – Ball and Stewart leading home a British one-two – while van Gass’s double gold and a team sprint silver took the team’s overall total to 21, making this Great Britain’s most successful ever championships.
After taking silver and gold respectively in yesterday’s kilo, Ball and Stewart (9.852) and Neil Fachie and Matt Rotherham (9.785) recorded the two fastest qualification times in the men’s sprint, and an all-British final looked an increasing inevitability as both duos navigated their way through the rounds without losing a race.
There, Ball and Stewart took first blood, and held on to their lead in the second race to win by just 0.003 and wrap up a 2-0 victory.
“We didn’t know what we could come here and do as we’ve not been together long, but now is a perfect time to lay down a marker. What better way to start the year?”
In the women’s event, Thornhill and Scott’s quality shone through for the second day in a row, as they qualified fastest in 10.776, over half a second quicker than any other pairing, and just outside their own world record.
From then, they made serene progress through the rounds, defeating Germany’s Jessica Dietz and Maxie Rathmann 2-0 in the quarter-finals, before repeating that scoreline against American pairing Stephanie Zundel and Heather Gray to reach the final.
There, they took on Belgium’s Griet Hoet and Anneleen Monsieur, and completed an unbeaten day by winning 2-0 to take gold in this event as a pairing for a third successive year.
Van Gass enjoyed a spectacular end to his memorable championships, adding MC3 scratch and omnium gold medals to the kilo gold and pursuit silver he had already won.
He went into today’s scratch race, the fourth and final event of the omnium, eight points in front of his nearest rival for the omnium title, Spain’s Eduardo Santas Asensio. Knowing he had such a gap to bridge, the Spaniard was aggressive from the gun in the 60-lap race, but while his attack ultimately came to nothing, van Gass judged his perfectly.
The Briton surged off the front of the bunch with around 40 laps to go, and worked on his own to build a lead. With the pace on the front of the peloton fluctuating, van Gass had to bide his time, but eventually made the catch to take a lap on the rest of the field.
Despite a late attempt by Asensio and Russia’s Aleksei Obydennov to take a lap of their own, van Gass exerted control over the rest of the race, staying within the bunch to win gold, which in turn secured his omnium victory.
Team-mate Fin Graham finished seventh in the scratch race and fifth in the omnium.
Of becoming a triple world champion, Van Gass said:
“It’s been so far beyond anything I ever expected. I’m a bit speechless about walking away with three jerseys – from working constantly for one, to have three in one championship is more than a dream.”
In the team sprint qualification round, Kadeena Cox, Jody Cundy and van Gass stopped the clock at 49.814, initially placing them in third. However, an illegal change saw the Spanish team – who had clocked the second fastest time – relegated, moving Britain up into the gold medal final, where they’d face a Chinese trio who had broken the world record with a 48.430 in qualifying.
For the final, Louis Rolfe and Jon-Allan Butterworth replaced Cox and van Gass, and although the British trio recorded a 48.803, the Chinese lowered the new world record still further, stopping the clock at 48.096 to claim gold.
In the MC5 scratch race, Will Bjergfelt was fourth and Jon Gildea seventh. Both riders were part of groups which took a lap on the field in the middle section of the 60-lap race, but with 15 laps to go, Australia’s Alistair Donohoe and the Netherlands’ Daniel Abraham Gebru kicked away from the bunch, taking their second lap and creating a two-way battle for gold, which the Australian won.
Behind them, Brazilian Lauro Cesar Mouro Chaman launched an attack for bronze, and despite a valiant chase by Bjergfelt, the Briton ended up just outside the medals.
Gildea’s seventh secured him a fourth-place finish in the omnium.
Earlier in the weekend, Dame Sarah Storey won the WC5 individual pursuit, scratch race and omnium to take her career world title tally to 38, while Cundy won his 12th successive kilo world title. Great Britain’s medal total of 21 was made up of 11 gold, eight silver and two bronze.