Sarah Hammer considered 2010 her "best-ever on a bike" and Cyclingnews readers agreed, awarding the 27-year-old American 4,162 votes and top honours as Female Track Rider of the Year in a tight, three-way contest over Great Britain's Victoria Pendleton and Australia's Anna Meares.
Early in the year at the UCI Track World Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark, Hammer powered to the 3,000m individual pursuit gold medal in a dominating performance. Hammer qualified fastest in 3:27.826, 2.5 seconds ahead of Great Britain's Wendy Houvenaghel, and then bested the Briton by nearly four seconds in the final to earn the third pursuit championship of her career.
Two months later at the Pan American Track Championships in Aquascalientes, Mexico, Hammer's scintillating form etched her name into the record books not once, but twice in two days. First, Hammer clocked 3:22.269 in the 3,000m individual pursuit qualifiers to break the world record of 3:24.537 set by New Zealand's Sara Ulmer during the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. The next day Hammer, along with teammates Lauren Tamayo and Dotsie Bausch, broke the 3,000m team pursuit world record of 3:21.552 set earlier in the year by New Zealand at the track world championships in Copenhagen, Denmark. The American trio stopped the clock in 3:19.569 en route to a gold medal against Cuba in the finals.
"I am thrilled to win the award, especially with so many other great competitors within the female track category," Hammer told Cyclingnews. "Results-wise, 2010 was my best-ever year on the bike, and even better, I had a blast doing it!
"On my side, 2010 felt like one of my most exciting years on a bike and one where I was very happy to be close to pain-free in the back department. I've realized that injuries are a funny thing as I've never been happier to be able to get on the bike and suffer and I think the results for the year illustrated that.
"Looking back, I think my highest achievement for 2010 (and in my career) was, without a doubt, breaking Sarah Ulmer's world record. I crossed the line and literally died about two minutes after the ride. The third kilo was so painful at altitude but in the end I guess it felt like what a proper world record-ride should feel like-pure pain."
The world records are still awaiting ratification by the UCI, however. "They are doing some tests in Mexico to see how the pressure used to keep the dome roof up in the velodrome affects the air pressure inside. Our team altimeters actually showed that it lowered elevation rather than raising, but I guess we will have to wait and see," said Hammer.
Victoria Pendleton finished as runner-up in the poll with 3,979 votes, 183 fewer than Hammer, which denied the 2008 and 2009 winner a hat-trick in the category. The 30-year-old Briton earned two medals at the UCI Track World Championships in Copenhagen - gold in the sprint, her fifth in the event and 11th world title overall, plus silver in the keirin. Pendleton also earned three gold medals at the British Track Championships, winning the 500m time trial, sprint, and keirin, which raised her national title count to 29 for her career.
Australia's Anna Meares rounded out the top three with 3,829 votes, 333 behind Hammer. The 27-year-old Meares won two world championships in Copenhagen, earning gold in the 500m time trial and the team sprint. Meares, along with teammate Kaarle McCulloch, lowered the world record twice en route to the team sprint world championship as they clocked 33.037 in qualifying and then 32.923 seconds to win gold versus China.
Meares also collected two gold medals at the Oceania Track Championships, winning the sprint and keirin events, and collected three victories at the opening UCI Track World Cup of the 2010-2011 season in Melbourne, where she won the sprint, 500m time trial and keirin.
Cyclingnews Reader Poll results - Best female track rider
Sarah Hammer, 4162 votes (24.8%)
Victoria Pendleton, 3979 (23.7%)
Anna Meares, 3829 (22.8%)
Lizzie Armitstead, 1998 (11.9%)
Tara Whitten, 1303 (7.8%)
Kaarle McCulloch, 608 (3.6%)
Simona Krupeckaite, 577 (3.4%)
Shuang Guo, 331 (1.9%)
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