GWENT’S James Ball chose the “perfect time to lay down a marker” with pilot Lewis Stewart as the Great Britain duo rode to tandem sprint gold at the UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships.

The pair, still relatively inexperienced as a team, edged out fellow Brits Neil Fachie and Matt Rotherham, who had beaten them to first place in 2019, in the final in Milton, Canada.

The triumph for Ponthir’s Ball meant gold medals at back-to-back world championships – and a fourth in all – following his victory in the 1km time trial with Pete Mitchell in the Netherlands last March.

Ball had gone to Ontario this time around with hopes of repeating his double gold in Los Angeles three years previously – and he came close to achieving it.

The day before his sprint success, Ball had to settle for silver in the defence of his kilo title, with Fachie regaining the crown the Welshman had taken off him in Apeldoorn almost 12 months before.

Fachie and Rotherham stopped the clock at an impressive 59.724secs, a time Ball and Stewart couldn’t better.

“We wanted this back,” said Scotsman Fachie, a Paralympic champion at London 2012.

“We thought it was our title this year, and we’re relieved to come here and do the business.

“Particularly in a Paralympic year – to be world champions is a good sign.”

Eager to finish their campaign on an even bigger high, the visually impaired Ball and his team-mate posted the second fastest qualifying time in the sprint.

With Fachie and Rotherham the pair going quicker, an all-British best-of-three race final looked on the cards at an early stage of the competition.

Both pairs navigated their way through the rounds without losing a race to set-up a repeat of last year’s final, which Fachie and Rotherham won.

Ball and Stewart drew first blood and held on to their lead in the second race to win by just 0.003 seconds for a 2-0 victory.

“We didn’t know what we could come here and do as we’ve not been together long, but now is a perfect time to lay down a marker,” said 28-year-old Ball. “What better way to start the year?”

Writing on social media, Ball added: “Absolutely over the moon to become the new tandem sprint world champions.

“It was down to the absolute wire in the final, so congratulations to Neil Fachie and Matt Rotherham for giving us one hell of a battle!

“I’d also like to say that Lewis has been a fantastic addition to the team and I couldn’t be happier for him as well.

“I’m looking forward to what the future holds and seeing what is actually possible.”

Ball ended up being part of Great Britain’s most successful eve championships – they finished with 11 gold, eight silver and two bronze medals.

Dame Sarah Storey won the WC5 individual pursuit, scratch race and omnium to take her career world title tally across cycling and swimming to 38, while Jody Cundy won his 12th successive kilo world title.

“When I realised earlier in the week that this was my 20th world championships, I couldn’t believe it, then when we talked about the medals it was a bit ‘wow’,” said Storey.

“It feels amazing – to win three in one day is just a bit of a dream to be honest. I never thought it would happen.

“I’m really pleased with my form and the work I’ve been doing in the chamber and on the road – I’m delighted.”