GLASGOW (Reuters) – Kirsten Wild, a cycling sprint colossus on the road and track, added to her glittering palmares by winning the first cycling title of the new multi-sport European Championships in Glasgow on Friday.
On a night which saw one of Britain’s great Olympians, Laura Kenny, return to golden ways in the team pursuit — rather fittingly in the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome — it was flying Dutchwoman Wild who provided the individual tour de force.
The 35-year-old, who had won the RideLondon Classique on Saturday to scoop the richest one-day race prize in women’s professional road cycling, continued her successful British jaunt with a victory in the women’s scratch race.
Wild, whose late-blooming career has this year also been adorned by three world track titles in front of her Dutch fans as well as five international road race wins, hit the front of the 10km track test with over two laps to go.
And although rising British talent Emily Kay pushed her all the way to the line, Wild just held on.
It was so close, though, that Wild admitted: “On the finish line, she (Kay) was so close to me that I was not even sure. I had to wait and see from the replay on the big screen.
“She came in with a lot of speed that she eventually passed me.” Then she added with a laugh: “Apparently, after the finish line!…”
Later, a consummate team triumph made up for this near-miss in the eyes of the home fans with Kenny, Elinor Barker, Katie Archibald and Neah Evans landing the team pursuit after belatedly cracking stubborn Italian opponents.
It had been close until the final kilometre when the British quartet forged away to win in 4 minutes 16.896 seconds, with the broken Italians eventually limping home in 4:25.384.
It marked a triumphant return to the top of the podium for four-time Olympic champion Kenny, the most successful woman track cyclist in history.
The 26-year-old, formerly Laura Trott, took time out of the sport after Rio de Janeiro, marrying fellow multi-gold medallist Jason Kenny and giving birth to their first child.
“It’s great. For me, having a year out, I never knew whether I’d actually make it back to the top table,” said Kenny. “I’m still a bit away from the form where I left off.
“I want to go to Tokyo (2020 Olympic Games) in the form of my life and I am still chasing it, but right now it’s the best that I’ve felt in a long time.
“I absolutely love being a mum. Sometimes, it sounds like I’m moaning about a lack of sleep, but I wouldn’t change anything.”
The chances of Jason Kenny emulating his wife’s golden return disappeared when the British men’s sprint team suffered a mishap at the start of their heat. The Dutch team of Jeffrey Hoogland, Harrie Lavreysen, Roy Van Den Berg and Nilsof Van ‘t Hoenderdaal eventually struck gold.
Russia’s Anastasiia Voinova and Daria Shmeleva successfully defended their women’s team sprint title, while Italy’s quartet of Francesco Lamon, Filippo Ganna, Elia Viviani and Liam Bertazzo took the men’s team pursuit.
The first individual men’s champion was Ukraine’s Roman Gladysh, who dethroned France’s reigning scratch race champion Adrien Garel with a finely-timed sprint.
(Reporting by Ian Chadband; Editing by Hugh Lawson)