Jody Cundy won his twelfth successive kilo world title, while Dame Sarah Storey, Kadeena Cox and Jaco van Gass were also among the medals on the opening day of competition at the UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships in Milton, Canada, today (Thursday).
World records tumbled in the morning as the championships got off to a rapid start, and Cundy became the first Briton to top the podium in Milton during the afternoon session.
Befitting his status as defending champion, Cundy was last to go in the MC4 kilo, and lived up to his billing as overwhelming favourite, clocking 1:05.087 – almost a second quicker than his nearest rival – to add another rainbow jersey to his collection.
He said: “The time really doesn’t reflect anywhere near the form I’m in, which is kind of disappointing. The winner of the C5 race (which will be combined with the C4 event and factored at the Paralympics) did a 1:03, which is really quick, so we’ve got our work cut out for us in Tokyo.
“I know that I didn’t perform at my best, which is disappointing as that’s all you train for – to do your best on race day. But it’s our first world title of the championships, and it feels pretty awesome to be doing it at my age…but I am finding out that it gets more difficult!”
Another of Great Britain’s Paralympic legends, Storey, also started her busy weekend – the 20th world championships of her career – with a medal; a bronze in the WC5 500m. Storey posted a time of 38.210 to take third behind France’s Marie Patouillet (37.547) and the Netherlands’ Caroline Groot (36.159).
Afterwards, Storey said: “Today I was playing out with the sprinters, so to come away with a podium place is always a pleasing result. The sprinters are obviously focusing really hard on Tokyo, so it was all to play for and I was always going to be pleased to get on the podium, especially with the pursuit still to come.”
Great Britain was also able to celebrate two silver medals on the opening day of competition, courtesy of Cox (WC4 500m) and van Gass (MC3 pursuit).
Canada’s Kate O’Brien, a recent addition to the category, was first up in Cox’s event, and posted a stunning time of 35.233 to break the world record that Cox set at the 2016 Rio Paralympics.
Nobody else was able to get close to that marker until Cox’s effort – the Briton posted a 36.653 to win silver.
Van Gass followed her on to the same step of the podium after a just being edged out by Australia’s defending champion David Nicholas in the final of the MC3 pursuit.
Nicholas had qualified just ahead of van Gass, but the Briton had the upper hand for much of the final. However, the Australian finished the stronger, overhauling van Gass with a lap and a half to go, and eventually winning by half a second.
Van Gass said: “It’s the one that got away. I’ve got mixed emotions – I’m extremely happy and proud of my performance, but when it comes down to such a close margin as that, it’s a bitter pill to swallow.”
Fin Graham just missed out on a medal ride, setting a time of 3:36.059, which earned him fifth place.
Elsewhere, Jon-Allan Butterworth just missed out on a medal in the MC5 kilo. Butterworth was seeded in an early heat, but his time of 1:05.796 held the lead until deep into the event. He was eventually overtaken and then pushed down into third position by just over a tenth of a second.
His team-mates Jon Gildea (1:06.184) and Blaine Hunt (1:06.762) were fifth and sixth respectively.
In the MC2 pursuit, both Matthew Robertson and Louis Rolfe set personal best times on their way to sixth and seventh positions respectively. Rolfe posted 3:43.846 before Robertson stopped the clock in 3:43.195, an improvement on the previous best times which both riders set at November’s Manchester Para-cycling International.
Belgium’s Ewoud Vromant recorded a time of 3:36.491 – then the fastest verified time in history – in qualifying, and went on to lower that mark even further in the final, winning gold in 3:36.322.
The first Briton on the track today was cycling world championship debutant Sam Ruddock, who clocked 4:29.747 in the MC1 pursuit. That was enough for 13th place and therefore no medal ride in a highly competitive event which saw the three fastest times in history all recorded in the morning’s qualification session.
The new world record holder going into the final, China’s Li Zhangyu, held off defending champion Ricardo ten Argiles (Spain) to win gold.
The action continues tomorrow, when endurance tandem duos Lora Fachie and Corrine Hall and Steve Bate and Adam Duggleby both take on the pursuit.