American Sarah Hammer set a new world record in the individual pursuit during the qualifying round of the women's event at the Panamerican Championships in Aguascalientes, Mexico today.
The mark, set in the city's new indoor velodrome, was a blazing 3:22.269, more than two seconds faster than that set by New Zealand's Sarah Ulmer at sea level during the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. The city of Aguascalientes is situated at an altitude of 1,870 meters.
The previous record, 3:24.537, has held since August 22, 2004. The new record will be official once it is confirmed by the International Cycling Union.
"This day checks a huge box in Sarah's cycling goals," said Hammer's coach Andy Sparks. "She came out of retirement when Sarah Ulmer broke the world record in Athens. That has been her inspiration since 2004.
"Sarah has already heard from Ulmer with a big congrats. Ulmer was a complete class act and Sarah is happy to be in similiar company."
Hammer, 26, retired for several years after a successful time in the junior ranks, but came back to the sport in 2005. She won her first world title in the pursuit the following year in Bordeaux, and followed it with a second title in Mallorca in 2007. While her preparation for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games was hampered by a back injury, Hammer recovered in time to net her third rainbow jersey earlier this year in Copenhagen.
Sparks said the world record means even more after her journey back to health. He and Hammer have been spending time at the UCI's training center in Switzerland, where she trained specifically at a similar altitude in preparation for a record attempt in Mexico.
"Sarah continued her training after worlds once we found out that the track [in Mexico] was homologated under UCI standards and that a world record would be recorded if achieved."
The reigning world champion in the discipline, Hammer has a second chance to go even better this afternoon. She will face Colombian Maria Luisa Calle, who was the second fastest competitor at 3:30.362, in the gold medal final.
Cuban Dalila Rodriguez (3:31.862) will face Mexican Sofia Arreola (3:36.325 ) in the bronze medal final.