Elinor Barker delivered gold for Great Britain on the opening night of the UCI Track Cycling World Championships as she won the women’s scratch race.
The 24-year-old revealed she almost quit cycling in 2018, but her rediscovered love of the sport was rewarded with a rainbow jersey after she held off defending champion Kirsten Wild to record a superb victory.
“It’s a massive surprise,” Barker said. “It feels really bizarre. I came really close to quitting completely about six months ago. I’d kind of fallen out of love with it so just to get here felt like such an achievement itself.”
Barker sat back in the pack for 38 of the 40 laps before launching a devastating attack.
Moments later a huge crash took out several riders and Barker found the strength to keep Wild behind her in the final bend.
Earlier in the day, Barker joined Katie Archibald, Laura Kenny and Ellie Dickinson to set the second fastest time in qualifying for the team pursuit, stopping the clock at four minutes 15.618 seconds, leaving them 0.7 seconds behind Australia’s pace.
The men’s squad of Barnsley-born Ed Clancy, Ethan Hayter, Great Ayton’s Charlie Tanfield, Wakefield’s Ollie Wood and Kian Emadi will face Australia for gold on Thursday after beating Holland with a time of 3:51.635.
But if there were tears of joy for Barker, Vicky Williamson was left bitterly disappointed after she and Leeds’s Katy Marchant could only manage 14th place to make an early exit from qualifying for the women’s team sprint.
It was not a good day for the sprinters all round, with Jason Kenny, Jack Carlin and Ryan Owens losing to Holland in the first round of the men’s sprint.