Jaco van Gass won his first ever world title on the second day of competition at the UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships in Milton, Canada, today (Friday).
After the disappointment of narrowly missing out on individual pursuit gold last night, van Gass was victorious in the MC3 kilo, on a day when Steve Bate and Adam Duggleby also added to the British medal count.
Van Gass was seeded in an early heat, but put himself unequivocally in the medal mix by stopping the clock at 1:07.867, among the fastest sea-level times in history. Team-mate Fin Graham briefly moved himself up to second behind van Gass with a 1:10.834, but although the Scot was knocked down the leaderboard to an eventual sixth, nobody could overhaul van Gass’s time, giving him a first career rainbow jersey.
“Last night (the pursuit) spurred me on. After last night’s racing the nerves were a bit more settled as well, and I think that showed – I went out as hard as I possibly could, kept my head down and was as small as possible, and I came away with a good time.
“To have to sit and wait and see what the other riders did…I can’t even tell you. You never wish other riders bad luck, but it comes down to 1/100ths of a second in this game, and in this classification, which is very competitive, so it was very nerve-wracking.
“I’m a bit speechless now to be honest. It’s everything I’ve worked towards for a very long time. To finally have one of these jerseys means the world, so I’m very pleased.”
Great Britain also medalled in the men’s tandem pursuit, on a day when both the men’s and women’s world records fell.
Bate and Duggleby clocked a time of 4:11.137 in their qualifying round, the second fastest time, but a way off Poland’s Marcin Polak and Michael Ladosz’s eye-catching 4:03.528, which took almost five seconds off the world record which Bate and Duggleby set in Rio in 2016.
The two pairings met in the final, and despite an even start to the race, the Polish pair began to assert their dominance, and caught Bate and Duggleby with two laps to go.
Afterwards, Bate said:
“It’s an improvement (on their fourth place from last year). Fair play to the Polish, that’s a phenomenal ride – they just belted our world record by about five seconds. That’s the aim we’re looking at for Tokyo, so now it’s been laid down, it’s up to us to respond.”
In the women’s event, Britain’s Lora Fachie and Corrine Hall made it through to the bronze medal ride-off, but – after going a second-and-a-half quicker than their Belgian opponents’ time in the qualifying round – were desperately unlucky to suffer a mechanical in the opening laps, which effectively ended the race as a contest and allowed the Belgians, Griet Hoet and Annaleen Monsieur, to catch them.
Earlier, the British pair had been in the same qualifying heat as New Zealand’s Emma Foy and Hannah van Kampen, who broke their own world record to clock 3:20.819 before going on to beat the Irish pairing of Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal to win gold.
The MC2 kilo saw Louis Rolfe miss out on a medal by an agonising margin, despite clocking a time faster than the world record which stood at the start of the competition.
Frenchman Alexandre Leaute lowered that world record mark from 1:12.838 to 1:11.373 with his effort, while Rolfe clocked 1:12.819 with his. Sitting in second place with two riders left to go, Rolfe had to watch on as both Tristen Chernove (Canada) and Gordon Allan (Australia) bettered his time, the latter by just two 1/100ths of a second.
Rolfe’s team-mate Matthew Robertson was sixth, after stopping the clock in 1:14.067.
In the MC1 kilo, Sam Ruddock continued his debut championships with an impressive fourth-place finish. Ruddock had to overcome a shaky start out of the gate, but got into his stride and recorded a time of 1:16.671, which held the lead up until the final three competitors, all of whom clocked faster times to push Ruddock down into fourth.
The final of those riders to go, Li Zhangyu, broke his own world record to win in 1:11.166.
Also contested today were the flying 200m events, which – while not world titles in their own right – contribute towards a rider’s overall score for the four-event omnium competitions.
Dame Sarah Storey (WC5) was the first Briton up, and sprung a surprise by beating the established sprinters in her category to record the fastest time of 12.172. That victory puts her joint first at the halfway stage of her omnium.
Jon Gildea stopped the clock at 11.611, the 10th fastest time in the MC5 category, leaving him eighth overall.
Van Gass and Graham were back for the equivalent MC3 event, with van Gass’s 11.497 and Graham’s 11.849 earning them third and sixth respectively. With just the scratch race to come, van Gass sits top of the overall leaderboard, with Graham sixth.
Last up was Robertson, who broke the MC2 world record at last year’s world championships. He saw that record broken early on by China’s Guihua Liang, then lowered further by Leaute, before registering a time of 12.393 to claim fourth. With two events still remaining, he is also fourth overall.
Today’s two medals add to the one gold (Jody Cundy), two silvers (van Gass and Storey) and one bronze (Kadeena Cox) won by Great Britain yesterday.
The action continues tomorrow, when Storey defends both her WC5 individual pursuit and scratch race titles. Also on the track will be the sprint tandems, as Sophie Thornhill and Helen Scott, James Ball and Lewis Stewart, and Neil Fachie and Matt Rotherham all compete in the kilo.