With the star-and-stripes draped over their shoulders on the infield of the Lee Valley Velodrome at the UCI Track World Championships in London, the significance of their accomplishment slowly began to sink in among the four US riders who had just achieved the country's first-ever world championship in the team pursuit.
Sarah Hammer, Chloe Dygert, Kelly Catlin and Jennifer Valente sailed into gold by nearly three seconds over the runners-up from Canada, covering the final round in 4:16.802 to the Canadians' 4:19.525.
"I've been waiting my whole career to get a gold medal with the team," Hammer said before receiving her medal. "What better place to do it. It's the first medal for the United States in women's or men's team pursuit, so it's a very special night for us."
Hammer attributed the success to the emphasis on teamwork.
"This is a special group," she said. "You don't do what we did tonight without a special group. We are a team in the whole sense of the word, and I think that showed in all three of our rides. It's very special."
The US riders topped the rankings through the two days of competition, setting the best mark of 4:16.180 in the qualifying round on Thursday. The effort was a new US national record, but it too would fall during Friday's first round, when the team rode to a new mark of 4:14.806. The US riders were hard-pressed by the British team in the round as the Britons also set their own national record at 4:16.350.
Canada won their heat against New Zealand to set up an all North American final in the evening session. It wasn’t so easy for the squad as they nearly lost their third rider on the final lap. It appeared the New Zealand riders were about to ride into the final, but the Canadians rallied to take the victory by just 0.003 seconds.
Although hopes among the US team of breaking the Australians' world record of 4:13.683 fell by the wayside, their historic effort won the day and the rainbow jerseys.
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