After experiencing disappointment in the team pursuit at the UCI Track World Championships, where his Great Britain squad came into the event as heavy favourites but had to settle for second behind Australia, Jonathan Dibben earned his first rainbow stripes on Friday by winning the points race.
The 22-year-old from Southampton started the race by taking the opening sprint and then secured the final victory by taking the finishing sprint as well.
“It was good, yeah. Unbelievable. I had really good legs,” he told Cyclingnews in the infield of Lee Valley Velodrome in London, adding that Friday’s result was the biggest win of his career so far.
“Well, there’s the Olympic goal and then world champs,” he said. “It’s by far, by far far, the biggest thing I’ve ever won.”
Dibben established an early lead in the competition by taking the first sprint and then put up points in seven more rounds before wining the final sprint to secure the gold medal ahead of Andreas Graf of Austria.
The pair were tied with 48 points each at the end, with the rainbow jersey going to Dibben on count-back. Dibben seized the day with a late move that put his competition on the back foot, allowing him to cruise across the finish line by several bike lengths and with plenty of time to celebrate.
“Coming into that last sprint I knew what I had to do probably 15 laps out,” he said. “The French guy gave me kind of a carrot to chase and everyone a carrot to chase, so I knew exactly where I had to get to.
“The Austrian was on my wheel drafting, so I knew I had to beat him. I was pretty confident in my sprint, and I just had to hope I’d get the French guy. The last 13 laps I was just waiting to sprint. And the last six or seven laps I was just trying to gulp in air and let the crowd give me a little boost.”
The race was marked by a crash that saw Benjamin Thomas (France) and Eiya Hashimoto (Japan) go down. The pair were in contention for medals, but despite remounting and Thomas hitting out in the final laps they were unable to make the podium.
“I didn’t quite see what happened,” Dibben said of the crash. “It was just in front of me. I think the Japanese guy went down first and then the French guy, I think. I heard that some people thought the race would be neutralised, so I just kept going and got across to the front group. It didn’t affect me too much.”
The win came as somewhat of a surprise to Dibben, who admitted that the team pursuit has been his priority going into the world championships and ahead of the Rio Olympic Games this summer. Nevertheless, he was hopeful for success on Friday.
“I hoped I could win, but I didn’t think I could win,” he said. “I thought any medal would have been a massive, massive result, and I’d have been just as delighted as I am now. So to get the gold medal in the world championships is something.”
Whether that something will translate into a start in the omnium at the Rio Games is another matter, however, as Mark Cavendish, who is competing in the omnium this weekend in London, is also angling for Great Britain’s omnium spot in Rio. There has been some question as to whether Cavendish can be in proper form for Rio in early August after competing at the Tour de France with his Dimension Data road team for three weeks in July.
“It certainly doesn’t do any harm,” Dibben said when asked if his result on Friday could boost his chances to compete in the omnium at the Olympics. “The points race is the main event of the omnium, so we’ll see how Cav goes and I’ll just keep racing like I am.”
Dibben will likely have a spot on the team pursuit squad that Great Britain sends to Rio, but he said he’d be happy make time for the omnium as well.
“Oh, of course. The team pursuit is the main goal in Rio, but then with the omnium there’s a day off and then two days,” he said. “I’d go for that as well.”