Britain’s Chris Hoy created track cycling history on Friday by winning his maiden sprint title at the world championships in Manchester.
Hoy, a former kilometre specialist who is the reigning world keirin champion and a former team sprint champion, claimed the gold medal ahead of Frenchman Kevin Sireau in a tense two-leg final. He becomes Britain’s first world champion in the event since 1954, when Reginald Harris won the professional title and Cyril Peacock won the amateur sprint crown.
Hoy’s first world title in track cycling’s blue riband event means he is also the first rider to hold world titles in the four speed events of the kilometre, team sprint, keirin and sprint.
It caps a hugely successful year for Hoy who, with the kilometre being pulled from the Olympic programme, has focussed his energy on sprint having mastered the keirin last year when he won the title in Mallorca.
Hoy’s seventh world title overall, in a career that began with a silver from the team sprint in the 1999 world championships, means Britain now have sixth golds here from just 10 events and three days of competition.
Hoy helped the men’s sprint team to second place, behind France, to hand the hosts their only silver of the competition so far.
When told he was the first to win titles in all four speed events, Hoy was stunned.
“Oh well, that’s nice then isn’t it!”
He added: “I never dreamt that I’d win this. I came here with an outside chance of a medal. I had a couple of good rides in the World Cup, but my form just seems to be stepping up and up.”
Sireau, racing in white as the reigning World Cup sprint champion, gave the 32-year-old from Edinburgh a run for his money.
Hoy was given a first leg decision after a photo finish, having come blazing back to pull just ahead of the 20-year-old Frenchman at the line in a time of 10.545.
In the second leg Sireau led after the bell to signal the final lap but, like he did in the first leg, Hoy stuck on his wheel to come powering through in the home straight to finish a more convincing winner.
Paying tribute to Sireau, he added: “He’s an incredible rider. He’s very young and has a great future ahead of him. I haven’t beaten him since he first came on the scene. In more recent times, in a head to head best of three, he’s beaten me 2-0.”
Sireau had beat Bourgain with relative ease in a two-leg semi-final, underlining his intentions by posting times for the final 200m that edged Hoy’s times in his wins over Italy’s Roberto Chiappa.
The new star of French sprinting had started by dominating qualifying in the only sub 10-seconds time of the field. So he was hugely disappointed to not to take his challenge all the way.
“It’s my first world championship medal (in individual). But I’m totally gutted,” said Sireau, who claimed gold on the opening day as France dominated Britain in the team sprint. “I had total belief that I could win both legs, and gave it everything I had.”
Hoy will now rest ahead of trying to defend his keirin crown on Saturday, when 2007 world sprint champion Theo Bos will be out to make amends for his shock exit on Friday.
It was Hoy who signalled his sprint gold intentions by putting Bos out in a tense three-leg thriller on Friday.
Hoy will compete in the team sprint, keirin and sprint at the Beijing Olympics, but for the moment he is keeping his focus on the next 24 hours.
“I’ve got the worlds tomorrow, the keirin first,” said Hoy, who is coached by Germany’s Jan van Eijden, who won his own world sprint crown here in 2000. “It’s nice to have that (sprint title) but again I’m not getting too far ahead.”