Howard tops off Australia's medal haul

Leigh Howard earned Australia a fourth gold medal at the 2009 UCI Track Cycling World Championships...

Leigh Howard earned Australia a fourth gold medal at the 2009 UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Pruszkow, Poland after he won the five-race omnium on the event's closing day.

Howard's victory brought the Australian medal tally to 10 made up of four gold, four silver and two bronze medals and placing Australia on top the medal table ahead of France with three gold, two silver and one bronze .

The 19-year-old Howard was not even sure he would start the event in which he claimed silver at last year's World Championships.

"I was extremely exhausted after a pretty hectic program with the team pursuit and madison," said Howard, silver medallists in both of those events, in a press release. "The Madison was my number one focus coming into the championships so I gave it everything and I was really fatigued after that. But now I'm very happy I started, obviously."

The omnium consists of five races contested in one day made up of a flying 200m time trial, 7.5km scratch race, 3km individual pursuit, 15km points race and finishing with a one kilometre time trial. The placings of the riders in each events are added together and the one with the lowest total wins the omnium.

Howard started off strongly with a fourth place in the flying 200m and a second place in the scratch race to take the overall lead. He faltered in the pursuit, however, finishing eighth and dropping him to a tie for second overall.

The pursuit marked the end of the first session and Howard next faced the points race in session two, the omnium event he finds most difficult.

"Last year that [the points race] was my downfall and I didn't really ride too well in it."

Howard finished second in the points race, however, and assumed the overall lead in the omnium.

"I've never been so nervous in my life," said Howard, prior to starting the one kilometre time trial, the omnium's concluding event. "But I really brought home the Aussie spirit and brought it home strong."

Cycling Australia's National Performance Director, Shayne Bannan, was proud of his team's effort at the world championships.

"Australian cycling should be pleased because a lot of work has been done by our development programs led by Gary Sutton and our juniors over the last ten years and what we saw here was really the fruit of that work," said Bannan. "It's a fantastic combination of some great emerging talent and some really fantastic experience and leadership in the team."

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