Olympic pursuit champion Bradley Wiggins lifted British spirits by successfully defending his individual pursuit crown here at the world track cycling championships on Wednesday.
Wiggins overpowered surprise Dutch finalist Jenning Huizenga in a time of 4:18.519 to claim his second consecutive gold after his victory in Mallorca last year.
Huizenga, who had beaten Wiggins in qualifying, finished in 4:23.474 to claim the silver medal. Russian Alexei Markov claimed the bronze after beating New Zealand's Hayden Roulston in their medal match-up.
Wiggins will line up with the British pursuit team on Thursday when they aim to defend their crown, with a tilt at Australia's world record also a possibility on the speedy Manchester boards.
In the meantime the 27-year-old Wiggins admitted he was glad to have finished the job after given himself a scare in the morning qualifying session.
"It's a relief to get the job done," said Wiggins, who had been in danger on not making the final when Huizenga came creeping back to pip him at the post and top qualifying in a time of 4:16.343. Wiggins finished in 4:17.024.
The Englishman had not expected Huizenga to knock a massive eight seconds off his previous personal best for the 16-lap event.
"I got carried away a bit earlier in qualifying," Wiggins explained. "I cut the throttle back in the last two kilometres to save something for the final."
The previous best time of Huizenga, who only started track racing a-year-and-a-half ago, was around the 4:24.0 mark. He said coming up against the world and Olympic champion had given him a spur.
"When I heard I was going to be against Wiggins in my heat it gave me huge motivation," said Huizenga, who will celebrate his 24th birthday on Saturday.
Both the British and Dutch teams were stunned on the opening day of the competition when they had a rider pulled out after failing blood screening tests. A total of 66 riders from four teams were subject to the tests by the International Cycling Union (UCI), and Britain's Rob Hayles and Dutchman Pim Ligthart failed the tests.
Both have now been temporarily suspended for 14 days.
In the case of Hayles, the volume of red blood cells in his blood (haematocrit) was found to be over the UCI's permitted threshold of 50 - an indication, though not proof, of blood manipulation.
Ligthart, according to his team, had a hematocrit level of 43 - although his team doctor said that other, crucial parameters aroused suspicion with UCI officials.
Wiggins said he was stunned with the news on Hayles, but gave his fellow endurance rider his support.
"It was a huge shock to everyone," added Wiggins. "But for me Rob is one of the cleanest guys out there."
© BikeRadar & AFP 2008