Simon Yates and Jason Kenny strike gold at Track Cycling World Championships in Minsk
By Matt Westby. Last Updated: February 23, 2013 11:16am
Simon Yates and Jason Kenny handed Great Britain their second and third gold medals of the Track Cycling World Championships with two unexpected victories inside the space of 30 minutes in Minsk.
Yates started the gold rush with a sensational triumph in the points race, before Kenny claimed the second rainbow jersey of his career by winning the keirin with a textbook tactical performance.
The three-time Olympic champion was fortunate to be in the final, after originally finishing only fourth in his second-round heat. However, he was promoted into the six-man medal race after France's Francois Pervis was relegated for an infringement of the rules - and Kenny duly made the most of his reprieve.
Simon Yates won with a thrilling final burst
Yates, on the other hand, needed no second chance after producing a mature and astute display that saw him become Britain's first world points race champion since his coach, Chris Newton, in 2002.
The event is played out over 160 laps, with points being awarded to the first four riders over the line in a sprint at the end of every 10th lap. Although Yates was well down the order in the early stages, he soon began moving towards the front of the field and slowly started tallying up points.
The 20-year-old from Bury was in joint-second overall after nine of the 16 sprints and occupied the bronze-medal position after 14 sprints.
Despite a crucial win in the penultimate sprint moving him up into silver, one point behind Spanish leader Eloy Teruel, it looked like that would be an unassailable deficit as Yates appeared to tire and slipped to back of the pack.
But he mustered a remarkable recovery in the final two laps, surging through the field to finish third in the concluding sprint and claim two points that handed him overall victory by one point from Teruel.
"It is absolutely brilliant," Yates said. "I tried to conserve my energy at the start and once everyone started getting a bit more tired, the race came to me. It worked out perfectly."
Kenny's second chance
Kenny's route to victory was far less smooth. He qualified for the second round only by virtue of a repechage race and then looked to have blown his opportunity by finishing outside the top three in what was effectively the semi-final.
Jason Kenny qualified for the final by default
Pervis' relegation reversed that, though, and from there Kenny executed a tactical masterclass to claim gold, latching on to the back wheel of Maximilian Levy in the final 400m, before emerging from the German's slipstream to pip him on the line.
"I put my house on Levy winning so I thought I will stick to him and pass him at the finish, which worked a treat," Kenny said. "I can't believe it.
"I only got into the final by default. It was all going wrong. I was having such a confidence crisis. I felt bad because that's not the way I wanted to get to the final. A bit luck went my way. It was perfect."
The two golds moved Britain to the top of the medal table in Minsk with three golds, one silver and two bronzes. Australia are second with two of each colour.
Earlier in day three's evening session, Becky James continued her course towards a third medal of the championships by powering into the semi-finals of the women's individual sprint.
James still on course
The 21-year-old Welsh rider, who claimed bronzes in the team sprint and 500m time trial in the opening two days of racing, swept aside Australia's Kaarle McCulloch 2-0 in a one-sided best-of-three quarter final.
Becky James progressed to the sprint semi-finals
It continued her imperious form from the day's morning session, when she was the only rider to dip under the 11-second mark in qualifying and then comfortably defeated Lisandra Guerra Rodriguez, of Cuba, in the second round.
James will now face London 2012 sprint bronze medallist Guo Shuang, of China, in tomorrow's semi-final, with Germany's Kristina Vogel taking on Hong Kong's Lee Wai Sze in the other semi.
"I am really happy," James said. "I didn't expect to qualify first, and especially sub-11 seconds. To get a 10.9 seconds is a dream come true for me. I would like to think [I can get on the podium], but I am not putting pressure on myself. I am just going to take it as it comes."
Britain's other representatives in day three's evening session were Dani King, who finished a creditable sixth in the women's scratch race, and Jon Dibben, who was pulled out the third event of the men's omnium, the elimination race, after riding off the track. He is 11th overall with three races remaining.