Sarah Hammer retains title

Updated: March 25, 2011, 7:05 PM ET
Associated Press

APELDOORN, Netherlands -- Defending champion Sarah Hammer of the United States powered around the closing laps to overtake Alison Shanks of New Zealand and retain her individual pursuit title Friday at the track cycling world championships.

Hammer, from Temecula, Calif., wrapped herself in an American flag as she pedaled around the Omnisport velodrome celebrating the first U.S. gold of the championships.

Hammer was three-quarters of a second behind Shanks at the 2,000-meter mark but turned on the power over the closing kilometer to speed home and win by a fraction of a second.

Hammer finished in 3 minutes, 32.933 seconds and Shanks could only manage 3:33.229 after expending too much energy in the early stages.

"That was really, really close," Hammer said. "I knew it was going to come down to that last final crunch and luckily I'm good at that push at the end."

Gregory Bauge of France won his third straight sprint world title, overpowering Britain's Jason Kenny twice in two races of the final.

Bauge hoisted his bike onto his huge shoulders and grinned broadly on the track before clambering up the steep banking to hug family and friends after cruising past Kenny.

The Frenchman reached speeds of 43.8 mph around the banked track of the Omnisport velodrome in both of the races and easily passed Kenny in the final.

"The season has gone really well for me," he said. "I'm well on track for the Olympics, but there's still lots of work to do."

Olympic champion Chris Hoy of Britain was third in the sprint and Vilija Sereikaite of Lithuania took bronze in the women's pursuit.

In the night's first medal race, Edwin Alcibiades Avila Vanegas of Colombia grabbed 20 bonus points for gaining a lap on the pack and won a key late sprint to win the points race.

Avila Vanegas grinned and punched the air with both hands as he ended the tactical 40-kilometer race with 33 points.

He said he had to be patient after taking the lap lead early, even as defending champion Cameron Meyer of Australia was chipping away at his lead late in the race.

Riders earn points during sprints held every 10 laps of the 160-lap race and can also earn 20 bonus points for lapping the rest of the field.

"I was going crazy but my coach was telling me to wait and wait and stay cool and it worked," Avila Vanegas said.

Meyer scored 25 points to take second place and Morgan Kneisky of France was third with 23 points.

"I didn't have the legs to take that lap and break the field when I needed to," Meyer said. "The Colombian rode an excellent race and made the right move at the right time and he takes the world title."

Avila Vanegas was the only rider who managed such a decisive breakaway and it made him world champion.

Meyer tried to peg back the difference in the sprints and looked like he might overhaul the Colombian late, but Avila Vanegas surged back to the front of the race and won another sprint with 20 laps to go to put himself out of danger.


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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