Hoy leaves crowd dreaming of Olympic cycling gold
Chris Hoy and Britain's cycling team rounded off the Track World Cup at London's new Olympic Velodrome on Sunday, leaving the cheering home crowd more confident than ever of gold at this year's Summer Games.
Hoy, a four-time Olympic champion, followed his victory in Saturday's kierin with a 2-0 win over Maximilian Levy in the men's sprint, overpowering the German on the home straight in the first race and keeping his line under severe pressure on the back straight in the second.
Hoy's win and a silver medal for Britain's men's team pursuit outfit helped the host nation finish atop the points table at the four-day meet - which doubled as an Olympic test event at the new 6,000-seat arena.
''I've had a tough day out there and felt it in my legs,'' the 35-year-old Scot said. ''More than the actual result, I'm more pleased about the way I rode. It's a really important step towards the Olympics.
''I've really fed off the energy of the crowd. Hopefully we can do the same at the Olympics.''
Hoy's triumph also boosted his chances of winning the single team slot in the Olympic sprint event. His rival for that spot, world champion Jason Kenny, lost his quarterfinal 2-0 to Levy before rallying to beat a four-man field, including Bauge, to finish fifth.
Next month's World Championships in Melbourne will be the next platform for the pair's battle.
''Every race between now and the Olympics matters,'' Kenny said. ''I'm chasing Chris. There's not a lot I can do except try harder and harder to close the gap.
''It's really good actually. We're really pushing each other. Obviously, we're both really competitive people.''
Levy's Germany finished as overall World Cup champion, while Australia's Jack Bobridge, Rohan Dennis, Alex Edmondson and Michael Hepburn won the men's team pursuit and clinched the overall World Cup title with the second-fastest time ever.
Home favorite Victoria Pendleton reached the final of the women's kierin but got trapped after an early surge and could not get around on the outside, finishing a disappointing fifth. Lithuania's Simona Krupeckaite took gold, while China's Li Huang won the women's multidiscipline omnium event ahead of American Sarah Hammer.
Levy hauled Hoy up and down the banked bends of the Siberian pine track in the first final race before the Scot's sheer power took him the long way around and past his opponent on the line.
Hoy then led off in the second race and looked in trouble as Levy attacked coming off the penultimate bend and nosed ahead. Hoy kept his nerve and refused to give way, holding on to the inside racing line and finishing a comfortable few lengths clear.
The triumph left Hoy with two golds and a bronze from Friday's team sprint event and offered a hint that he could be hitting a peak just in time for the Olympics.
''I've put in the hard yards this winter,'' Hoy said.
But the matchup of the day was in the men's sprint quarterfinals between Hoy and Gregory Bauge of France, who was world champion in 2009, 2010 and 2011 before losing the latter title to Kenny when he was banned for missing a drug test.
Hoy was pushed all the way by Bauge, who beat Hoy in the first race by half a wheel before the Briton took the second to set up a decider.
Hoy led off but such was the cagey approach of both riders that they came to a complete standstill on the rail almost immediately. To the amusement of the crowd, the velodrome DJ played Henry Mancini's ''Pink Panther Theme'' over the loudspeaker and officials called the pair back for a restart following a roll backward from Bauge.
Hoy then committed to the lead during the second of three laps and held off a surge from Bauge down the home straight to beat the Frenchman in a photo finish, punching the air in delight.
The partisan crowd gave Hoy an ovation but, with the Scot off the track, recognized Bauge's efforts with a round of generous applause.