Britain's women's pursuit team takes gold

Rebecca Romero adds another gold to collection

The British women's pursuit team handed the hosts their fifth gold medal of the world track cycling championships on Friday by dominating Ukraine in the final of the 3km event.

Ukraine finished second while Germany claimed the bronze after winning their medal match-up against Belarus.

Rebecca Romero, who won individual pursuit gold on Thursday, teamed up with Wendy Houvenaghel and Joanna Rowsell again after they had dominated qualifying ahead of Ukraine.

Ukraine, the pacesetters in this season's World Cup series, started fastest and held a slight lead on the British trio over the first four laps.

However, by the 1500 metre mark, Britain, despite being in only their second competitive race together, had pulled ahead.

Two laps later the British took nearly a one-second lead over their rivals who faded badly in the closing kilometre.

Britain had already won four gold medals, from seven events, through Bradley Wiggins in the individual pursuit, Victoria Pendleton and Shanaze Reade in the team sprint, the men's pursuit team and Romero in the women's individual pursuit.

The women's team pursuit is not on the Olympic programme and has only recently become part of the world championships.

Still Houvenaghel, who is hoping to aim for individual pursuit glory in Beijing alongside Romero, was delighted they were able to show their supremacy against an experienced Ukraine team.

"We're really, really pleased," Houvenaghel, who was born and bred on the north coast of Northern Ireland and takes her married name from the Dutch ancestry of her husband, told AFP. "Our main aim was to ride a technically competent race in a fast time without one girl dropping off the back, so to step up and say we're the best in the world is really great."

She added: "We hadn't really raced as a team before and the Ukrainians were the World Cup leaders consistently over the winter season, so we didn't take anything for granted."

Rowsell, the newest member of the trio, was stunned by the win.

"It's amazing. It hasn't sunk in yet!" said Rowsell, who has suffered from alopaecia for several years. "These guys are a real inspiration to me. They both raced world class times yesterday, and that's such an inspiration that they can then come out and perform to such high standards again."

Romero will be Britain's best hope of individual pursuit gold in Beijing, where she will also aim for the rare feat of winning Olympic medals from two sports.

"Yesterday was phenomenal. At two o'clock in the morning I was still awake with a smile on my face," Romero told AFP.

"But it was a case of getting the head down knowing you had another job to do. It was quite tough, but being so elated from yesterday and running on adrenaline helped me through."

© BikeRadar & AFP 2008

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