American Sarah Hammer racked up her fourth world championship in the individual pursuit, handing the USA its first gold medal of the event by beating New Zealand's Alison Shanks in the final. It added one more medal to the USA tally after the silver she helped her pursuit team take yesterday.
Yet her margin of victory was significantly slimmer than the one in Copenhagen last year, and the American could only eke out a 0.3-second advantage in the final two laps to take the gold medal.
In fact, Hammer trailed for the entirety of the race, albeit by mere fractions of a second. The tension in the Apeldoorn velodrome rose to a fevered pitch as the gap first swung to the advantage of Shanks by 0.77 seconds after 1750m, and then narrowed to just 0.07 with one lap to go.
Hammer put in an amazing final lap to turn her deficit into an advantage, edging out Shanks by 0.296 seconds at the gun to take the gold.
"It was hard work - like it should be!" Hammer said. "We both knew it was going to be a duel, we knew it would come down to the last kilo. I could hear by the crowd's reaction that it was close, so I pretended it was the end of a scratch race and gave it all I had."
Indeed, the last 250m effort, a sprint if you can call it that, was what gave Hammer the slim advantage she need to capture win number four, and become the sixth woman to enjoy that many gold medals in the event - and the second American after Rebecca Twigg.
"You could tell by the excitement of the crowd, but I didn't know as I crossed the line because the guns went off very close - I saw the screen and said yeah!"
Hammer said she rode the pursuit like it was her last, and that it may well be, now that the event is no longer in the Olympic programme.
"The goal of riding it - now that I don't specifically train for the individual pursuit - is that the longer I do it, the longer I will hold on to that form, for the omnium toward next year. But as soon as we decided to do the individual pursuit here, suddenly a switch went off in my head even in training because it does mean so much to me."
While there was jubilation in the team USA camp, in the New Zealand pen it was dark as the riders' all-black kits; not only has the country missed out on gold so far, it also fell shy of bronze in this event when Jamie Nielsen lost out to Vilija Sereikaite of Lithuania.
"When it's that close it makes it that much more painful not to win," said Shanks. "I have to be happy with the race I executed. I went out with a plan and I really raced [Meares]. With four laps to go I was right there, but it was just those last couple laps... I have to congratulate Sarah, she was the faster rider. I'm happy with my performance, but it's still gutting when you come so close and get silver."
All of the riders across the events have been commenting on the slowness of the track. The velodrome's gentler bankings don't give the slingshot effect of other tracks, while a high pressure weather system has made the air thick and sluggish. The conditions especially factored into the endurance events like the pursuit.
"It's always important to pace yourself - 12 laps is a long way, especially when you need some fight in the tank to race someone like Sarah. It comes down to the last lap - I went out on my plan, andI think I gave it a good race, but she was the fastest rider today," said Shanks.
"Last year I was four seconds off her pace, and when I stop and think about the whole season I have to be pleased I guess to make ground on the benchmark she set last year. It was a hard benchmark, and it's cool to race against a fantastic opponent like that, but it still sucks to come second.
Sereikaite was pleased to take a medal in the event after a struggle in the morning's qualifying session. "I'm happy with the bronze because this morning I didn't feel very good in the qualifying. I had to really fight to get this result."
Women's individual pursuit final
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Sarah Hammer (United States Of America)||0:03:32.933|
|2||Alison Shanks (New Zealand)||0:03:33.229|
|3||Vilija Sereikaite (Lithuania)||0:03:37.643|
|4||Jaime Nielsen (New Zealand)||0:03:40.138|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Sarah Hammer (United States Of America)||0:03:33.522|
|2||Alison Shanks (New Zealand)||0:03:33.789|
|3||Vilija Sereikaite (Lithuania)||0:03:38.073|
|4||Jaime Nielsen (New Zealand)||0:03:38.921|
|5||Ellen Van Dijk (Netherlands)||0:03:40.751|
|6||Marlies Mejias Garcia (Cuba)||0:03:42.158|
|7||Pascale Schnider (Switzerland)||0:03:42.764|
|8||Lauren Ellis (New Zealand)||0:03:44.165|
|9||Caroline Ryan (Ireland)||0:03:44.264|
|10||Aksana Papko (Belarus)||0:03:45.348|
|11||Verena Joos (Germany)||0:03:45.636|
|12||Cari Higgins (United States Of America)||0:03:49.616|
|13||Alena Dylko (Belarus)||0:03:51.314|
|14||Egle Zablockyte (Lithuania)||0:03:55.130|
|15||Chanpeng Nontasin (Thailand)||0:03:56.653|
|16||Mei Yu Hsiao (Chinese Taipei)||0:03:59.477|
|DNS||Sarah Kent (Australia)|
|DNS||Josephine Tomic (Australia)|