The Netherlands started the final day of the 2020 UCI Track Cycling World Championships presented by Tissot with a slender lead in the overall medal table from hosts Germany ahead of a resurgent USA. With Sunday’s action in Berlin producing gold medals for Great Britain, the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany, it was the finale from Emma Hinze that really captured the mood and put down the marker for the Olympics.
Three for Hinze!
After the surprise early exits from the women’s keirin of Russia’s Daria Shmeleva (2019 bronze medalist) and Ukraine’s Liubov Basova the favourites, reigning champion Lee Wai Sze (Hong Kong) and the two on-form Germans, Emma Hinze and Lea Freidrich, won their quarterfinals. The trio came through the semi’s to the gold final, along with Korea’s Hyejin Lee, New Zealand Ellesse Andrews NZL and Stephanie Morton of Australia.
In a breathless race, Hinze hit the front with two laps to go and held position to take the bell – but no-one could match her. The young German crossed the line a bike length ahead to claim her third gold medal of the week. Hyejin Lee in second with Morton crossing the line in third.
The young German’s performance and reaction perfectly reflected the mood in the German camp. “I still can’t believe it! I didn’t expect to win again. It’s really hard to ride four heats and I won every heat!” said Hinze. “Lea [Froedrich], Pauline [Grabosch] and I won every event at this World Championship, and if someone had told me before, I wouldn’t believe it!”
Barker back to her best
It took a crash to unseat the Netherlands’ Kirsten Wild and a moment of brilliance to overcome the USA’s Jennifer Valente in the women’s points race.
Valente (points race silver medalist in 2019) set her stall out by winning the first sprint in the 100-lap race from Lotte Kopecky of Belgium, France’s Victoire Berteau and 2018 points race World Champion Wild – who had medalled in this event the previous three years.
Sofia Arreola of Mexico set off looking for a lap and was chased down by Wild, Valente and Anita Stenberg of Norway, all four collecting 20 early points. Then another quartet – Great Britain’s Elinor Barker (2017 points race World Champion), Italy’s Maria Confalonieri, Olga Zabelinskaya of Uzbekistan and Maria Novolodskaya of Russia followed to gain a lap.
With 28 laps remaining, Wild, then in third position, crashed trying to avoid a rider moving up the banking, narrowly missed by Barker and defending champion Alexandra Manly of Australia, who both broke clear to take 1-2 on the following sprint. But the Briton kept the hammer down, and went on to gain another lap on the field, and with it a clear lead over Valente and Confalonieri. The American kept up the pressure with another hard sprint, the remounted Dutch woman right on her tail.
Even with double points on the last sprint, won by Stenberg, powering through to leapfrog five riders and take third position, the 25-year-old Welsh rider was not to be overhauled on her national day. Barker took gold with 50 points; Valente silver on 34 and, with 33, Stenberg the bronze – Norway’s first medal of the championships.
The Netherlands’ Harrie Lavreysen put on a masterful performance to retain his sprint title. Last year’s top three: Lavreysen, his compatriot Jeffrey Hoogland and the Pole Mateusz Rudyk were joined by Malaysia’s Azizulhasni Awang in the semi-finals. Both were won clean, 2-0 by the Dutch riders, setting up an ‘all orange’ gold final, a repeat of 2019.
In the bronze final Awang got the better of the cat-and-mouse in the first race and was more tactically astute in the second, pulling away and pulling a wheelie across the line.
And in the gold final it was reigning champion Lavreysen who won the first race, and the 22-year-old put the pressure on Hoogland in race two. The older Dutchman left too big a gap and the younger rider didn’t need asking twice. After blowing away all before him, Lavreysen is already looking forward:
“I think all the countries are going to step up their game before the Olympics and I hope that we do the same.”
In the men’s Madison the Danish pair – Lasse Norman Hansen (last year’s Madison silver medalist and part of the record-breaking team pursuit gold medal quarter in Friday) and Michal Morkov – started with two early sprint wins and then sent the strongest possible message by winning a lap on the field.
It turned out to be the only lap gained, and the Madison soon became a ‘best of the rest’ chase. After 5 of 20 sprints the Danes sat on 36 points, with the closest pair, New Zealand (2019 Omnium UCI World Champion Campbell Stewart and 2013 Omnium UCI World Champion Aaron Gate) on 6.
The Kiwis and Germany (defending double UCI World Champions Roger Kluge and Theo Reinhardt, who started as favourites) put in aggressive moves, with France, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands all showing but negating each other.
Past half distance and the Danes still didn’t feel the need to ride defensively, winning the 12th sprint to clock up a lead of 27 points, and the fight for silver and bronze was intense. A late move from Great Britain to win the penultimate sprint and an attack from France were both in vain for the podium chase.
Germany’s win in the double-points final sprint won them the bronze medal, and it was silver for New Zealand, having inched ahead of the Dutch rider to nudge the Netherlands off the podium. It wasn’t to be a third successive title for the hosts, even though Roger Kluge’s Berlin crowd celebrated the bronze like it was! The universal respect for the Danish duo was as clear as their margin of victory.
After five amazing days of competition in Berlin, the Netherlands just top the final tabel from the hosts, retaining their number one spot from 2019. But the performances, especially from the American and German women and the Dutch and Danish men, have not only entertained the world, but have also set up a mouth-watering next meeting in Tokyo.