Clancy may have to switch gear after triumph in Cali

WHEN British cyclists first learned that the omnium would be a new event at their home Olympics in 2012, there was scepticism, bewilderment and anger.

How could a nation so dominant in Beijing not be allowed the chance to win as many gold medals in front of their home fans?

Instead of the likes of Bradley Wiggins and Rebecca Romero training for defences of their individual pursuit crowns, those races, along with the men's and women's points races and the men's madison were removed from the programme as the International Olympic Committee ratified the International Cycling Union's proposals to create a gender parity in the Olympic track programme.

In their place came sprints, keirins, team sprints, team pursuits and the much-maligned multi-discipline omniums for both sexes.

Those fears about the new event that combines six elements of track cycling, however, have proved unwarranted, for a year later Britain – and in particular Yorkshire – has two of the best omnium rides in the world.

Otley's Lizzie Armitstead won silver in the World Championships in Copenhagen in March just days after Barnsley's Ed Clancy claimed the first world title on offer in the men's omnium.

And at the weekend, Clancy built on his world crown by clinching gold in the second World Cup meeting of the year in Cali, Columbia.

The 25-year-old produced a stunning performance in the final event of the six-pronged competition – the one kilometre time trial – to edge out home favourite Juan Esteban Arango Carvajal by just two points.

The Olympic team pursuit gold medallist from Beijing produced a staggering ride of 1:01.773 minutes – boosting his hopes of reaching the top of the podium at London 2012.

Clancy's victory in Copenhagen came over a shortened version of the event.

Both the points and scratch races were shortened while the individual pursuit was over three kilometres rather than four but in Cali, Clancy proved he was up to the task over the longer distances, and so proving to the British establishment that the omnium may not be an event to fear in London in 2012.

Dan Hunt, British Cycling's endurance coach, said: "Ed has done very well and opened our eyes to an emerging event.

"I will admit to being a sceptic to start with who was quite annoyed at the dropping of the individual pursuit races and not sure if the omnium was really an Olympic event.

"In an ideal world the pursuits would have stayed but I have very quickly warmed to the omnium.

"Now that it is being raced in its full length Olympic format it is a brilliant competition that engages the crowd, especially when there is a home rider to get behind.

"It is a bloody tough event to put it bluntly and the levels of performance being produced are outstanding.

"What you can say for absolute certain is that only the very best track riders in the world will get anywhere near an Olympic omnium medal in London."

Clancy told the Yorkshire Post after his world title win in March that he would contest the omnium in London were it not to clash with his defence of the team pursuit crown.

"I'd trade a bit of glory for a win with the boys," Clancy said, suggesting that sharing the podium with his three team-mates meant more to him than having the limelight all to himself.

"If it came down to a choice between team pursuit and omnium I'd go with the team pursuit."

Many more performances like the one he produced in Columbia, however, and he may have to change his mind.

Clancy finished fourth in the opening World Cup race in Melbourne two weeks ago but leapfrogged on to the top step of the podium in Cali, by narrowly edging out Carvajal by just two points.

Bronze medal winner Zachary Bell of Canada was a further 11 points back.

He won the kilometre time-trial in a blistering time of 1:01.773 minutes, was second in the individual pursuit (4.26 mins) and flying lap (13.354 secs) and placed consistently well in the three bunch races (fourth, fifth and 10th) to amass 24 points and win gold.

On the final day of the track World Cup in Cali, Victoria Pendleton won keirin gold and Sir Chris Hoy sprint silver.

Pendleton negotiated the first and second rounds of the event which begins behind a derny pacing motorbike by finishing first, and held off the six-woman field to triumph in the final ahead of French duo Sandie Clair and Virginie Cueff.

In the men's sprint, Hoy beat team-mate Matt Crampton in the quarter-finals before defeating world champion Gregory Bauge 2-0 in the best-of-three semi-final.Hoy, though, then suffered a 2-0 loss to Frenchman Kevin Sireau in the final.

Laura Trott was fifth in the women's omnium.