Becky James fails to defend sprint title
11:04am Saturday 1st March 2014 in Sport
GWENT’S Becky James was unable to defend her women’s sprint title after being beaten 2-0 by team-mate Jess Varnish in the quarter-finals on day three of the Track Cycling World Championships in Colombia.
Varnish won the second bout after tumbling to the track when stationary on the back straight. James shared a hug with her team-mate afterwards and was angry at herself for her tactical selection.
The 22-year-old from Abergavenny, who responded by winning the race for fifth, said: “I’ve no idea why we decided to go for those tactics.
“It’s upsetting because I wanted to defend my world title, especially after qualifying second. My legs felt great today.”
James will bid to defend her Keirin title on Sunday.
“I wish it was now,” she added.
There were no hard feelings with Varnish.
James added: “Really good friends off the track and worst enemies on the track. That’s how sport is.
“We’ve both been practising track standing and slow riding together in Manchester.
“When I felt her hit my back wheel and I just saw her tumble we both had a bit of a giggle.”
James was in good company as Olympic champion Anna Meares of Australia was also eliminated with her conqueror Zhong Tianshi of China meeting Varnish in the semi-finals.
The loudest cheer was for Edwin Avila, who won the men’s points race in his home town. Ireland’s Martyn Irvine was sixth while Cardiff cyclist Owain Doull crashed before finishing 17th.
Doull, who was also part of the team pursuit squad who finished a lowly eighth, said: "That couldn't have gone much worse if I’m honest! Tank was empty from the off and the crash didn't help affairs! The nightmare continues!"
Meanwhile a thrilled Joanna Rowsell bounced back from a chest infection to claim a first individual Track Cycling World Championships title.
After four team pursuit world titles - the first coming in 2008 and the most recent coming on day two in Colombia alongside Welsh rider Elinor Barker, Rowsell upset defending champion Sarah Hammer of the United States to win the women’s three-kilometre individual pursuit, a title she has long coveted, and claim Britain’s second gold of the championships, while Barker was ninth.
“It means the world to me,” the 25-year-old from Cheam, Surrey said.
“The team is obviously the priority - that’s what we train for and I’ll live and die for those girls - but it’s a really good chance for me to come here and do an individual event the day after the team pursuit.
“This has been a personal goal for me for a while, I just can’t believe I pulled it off.
“I love having a big target to work towards. I missed the worlds last year out of personal choice just to have a break, but I’ve been raring to go for this ever since this time last year. This time last year I was training with this in mind.”
In February Rowsell spent a period isolated from the rest of the squad.
“I was ill with a chest infection two weeks ago so I missed three team training sessions, which in hindsight perhaps did me good, gave me a bit more rest,” she added.
“I wasn’t bed-bound, but I couldn’t train. I get pursuiter’s cough and that’s common, but I have asthma and it just affected me really badly and developed into a chest infection.”
The enforced break did her good as Rowsell recorded a personal best of three minutes 30.318 seconds in the non-Olympic event to beat Hammer, who clocked 3mins 31.535secs.
“I woke up this morning feeling good, which is unusual after two 4k team pursuits the day before, riding from man one,” she said.
“But I felt I had good legs on the rollers this morning and thought ‘this is a good sign’.
“I was really pleased with my qualifying ride just two tenths off my PB (personal best), but I can’t believe that ride just now. That’s a new personal best for me on pretty much an outdoor track, five-spoke wheel, cooler conditions - everybody else went slower.
“I can’t believe I’ve done it, I can’t believe I went that quick.”
The victory was built from the start as Rowsell was more than a second quicker than her rival after 500m and managed to hold the margin.
“My start’s my strength,” she said.
“It isn’t the conventional way of pursuiting, but if I can use my strength, get some time in the bank early on and then hang on.”
After achieving a long-held goal, Rowsell will target another in the summer, as she bids for Commonwealth Games glory in the individual pursuit in Glasgow, where she also hopes to ride the road time-trial.
“I’m so excited for the Commonwealth Games,” she added.
“I didn’t do it last time in Delhi because I was ill with glandular fever.
“It’s my first chance to train for individual pursuit, because we do all our training based around team pursuiting. That’ll be a different challenge.”