Sir Chris Hoy has ended his Olympic career by winning a sixth gold medal.
The Scot won the men’s keirin in unstoppable style, proving himself the ultimate competitor by fighting back from seeming defeat with a combination of irresistible speed and willpower.
Proof that British cycling has enormous strength in depth was offered by Laura Trott, who made herself a double Olympic champion by winning the women’s omnium.
Victoria Pendleton’s track career ended with defeat to her arch-rival, Australia’s Anna Meares, whom she faced in the women’s sprint final.
Sir Chris Hoy gave an early statement of intent in the semi-final of the men’s keirin, assuming the lead two laps out and never looking in danger of being passed, reaching a speed of 69kmh to cruise to victory.
A hugely exciting final began with the German, Maxmilian Levy, riding on the front, directly behind the derny motor pace bike. As the laps behind the motorbike ticked down, the Malaysian, Azizulhasni Awang, moved onto Levy’s shoulder.
Hoy didn’t wait long to launch his response, moving to the front with two laps to go, repeating his strategy of the semi-final.
But if the semi-final had been plain sailing, the final required Hoy to show just how much he wanted victory after Levy passed him at the start of the final lap, gaining a lead of a bike length in the back straight.
The final bend encapsulated an entire career with Hoy digging deep within himself to regain the lead and cross the line for a close but comfortable victory, earned in the final yards on desire alone.
He said: “I’m in shock. You try and compose yourself and try and take it all in, but this is surreal. This is all I wanted – to win in front of my home crowd.”
The support staff, including British Cycling’s performance director, Dave Brailsford, and head coach, Shane Sutton, formed a guard of honour as Hoy rolled off the boards into the well of the track.
In an interview with the BBC, Hoy paid tribute to the efforts of the ‘100 guys’ whom he said had worked equally hard for his success.
He likened the keirin to a lottery. “You make one mistake and it’s gone,” he said.
The 36-year-old confirmed that the London Games would be his last Olympics, but expressed his desire to end his career at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
“Will we see more? Not at the Olympics. I’m 99 per cent sure I won’t be competing in Rio. If I can keep going to Glasgow, that would be the dream ending.
“People look at the British team and say they win all the time, they must be super confident. It must be easy. It’s anything but,” he added.
Laura Trott began the second day of competition in the women’s omnium in a strong position after winning two of three events yesterday, and finsihing second in the other.
Today, the event, the 500 metre time trial, was set up perfectly by a thrilling finish to the scratch race, won by Australia’s Annette Edmondson.
America’s Sarah Hammer seized the opportunity for overall victory by hitting the front with two laps to go and leading almost until the line to finish second.
But a gutsy ride from Trott saw her finish third and remain just two points behind Hammer.
The two riders began the final event on opposite sides of the track, each knowing that failure to beat the other in the final effort would cost them the gold medal.
But the young Brit, who won her first Olympic gold medal with the women’s team pursuit squad, destroyed her opponent by recording a time of 35.110, to clinch her second title.
Emotional scenes included an embrace with team pursuit colleague, Dani King, as she rode to the fence and to her family and supporters.
Trott said: “I really can’t believe I’ve done it…I really can’t.”
In the opening heat of the women’s sprint semi-final, Pendleton easily beat Kristina Vogel (Germany), leading out the German and shrugging off her attempt to pass from the outside by raising her pace.
In the second heat, it was Vogel’s turn to lead out, but Pendleton, having left her charge late, simply powered around the outside, earning the applause of her rival as well as an ecstatic crowd.
Anna Meares and Guo Shuang went wheel-to-wheel in the first race of their semi-final, with the Chinese rider descending off the banking and pushing Meares off the track. The experienced Australian didn’t miss a beat, navigating her way back on to the boards and accelerating to victory.
The second heat was a more exciting affair, with Guo diving beneath Meares from the top of the banking with one and half laps to go. The Australian recovered, however, to set up a seemingly inevitable showdown with Pendleton in the Briton’s final race.
The final lived up to all the billing.
Pendleton led out heat one. Full of confidence, she surged from the front with a lap to go, but Meares rode into her slipstream. The pair clashed on the exit of the final bend and seemed inseparable as they lunged for the line. A photo finish awarded the victory to Pendleton buy one thousandth of a second, but just minutes later, the commisaires relegated Pendleton for leaving the sprinter’s lane.
Pendleton had to win the second heat to keep alive her hopes of a gold medal in her final race. But Meares produced an impressive performance, forcing Pendleton to lead out the sprint. Pendleton twice hesitated, seemingly unwilling to take on the perhaps self-defeating mission of sprinting from two laps out. Meares passed her with seeming ease in the back straight of the final lap.
Emotional scenes from both parties concluded the women’s sprint competition, with Meares shedding tears of joy, and Pendleton completing a farewell lap.
“I’m so relieved right now. I’m overwhelmed with emotion. I’m so glad it’s all done and I can move on.
“I’m glad it got to that stage. I think she’s the best rider in the field. She’s a fantastic competitor. I wish her all the best,” said Pendleton.
Relegation from heat one was the second disqualification of the Olympics for Pendleton, who went out of the women’s team sprint competition with Jess Varnish after setting a world record in an earlier heat.
Speaking of relegation from the individual sprint final, Pendleton said: “I can’t believe twice in one competition I’ve been relegated. It’s unheard of. It knocked my confidence.
“This is it. I can’t believe it’s all over,” she said.