Connor Jupps writes on an exciting World Track Cycling Championships.
The retirement of Victoria Pendleton and break from cycling for Sir Chris Hoy would have left many questioning whether British cycling could ever recreate the sensational success of London 2012 on the track.
The pair, along with Bradley Wiggins, have been the widely recognisable mainstays of British cycling over the last decade and beyond, achieving unequatable success at World Championships and Olympic Games, amongst other competitions. Along with the hole that these two have left behind, more were dug up as Geraint Thomas and Jo Rowsell announced before the championships that they would instead be focusing their attentions to the Road platform.
But the British public need fear not. For in the absence of the afore-mentioned cycling legends, a new crop of young talent emerged at last weeks World Track Championships in Minsk, achieving surprisingly awesome results to leave Belarus once again in the familiar position at the top of the cycling medal table. Under the leadership of Shane Sutton, with Sir Dave Brailsford sitting out, the team held an almost completely fresh look to that of a year ago.
Amongst the baby faced squad - many have yet to celebrate their 21st birthdays - individuals threw their case forward for filling the boots of their successful predecessors. None more so than Becky James, who has now become a household name amongst those with even just a mere interest in the sport, fulfilling the potential that had been so evident in her youth track career.
The natural successor to Pendleton, James completed double gold victory in the Keirin and Individual Sprint events to cast her name amongst the legends of the sport and set her star rising more vigorously. Factoring in her two Bronze medals also from last week, in the 500m Time Trial and Team Sprint, ensured that James entered the record books as the first Briton to pick up four medals in a single World Championship.
Comparisons were soon being drawn up between James and Pendleton though head coach Sutton was quick to shut these down despite admitting that the abilities of the 21 year old were on an even kilter to the likes of greats such as Natalia Tsylinskaya, Anna Meares and Pendleton.
However if James' success was seen as a surprise, it was nothing compared to the shock at seeing Simon Yates burst through with a final stunning lap to take the Points Race glory. The 20 year old turned up in Belarus with barely any hype, but delivered a perfect debut World Championship performance to take Gold and write his name in history as champion of the world. Although alongside Owain Doull, the pair could only finish eleventh in the Madison event, the week will be fondly remembered by Yates as his major breakthrough.
The youngest member of the team, Elinor Barker - Just eighteen years of age - also achieved superb success as she joined Laura Trott and Dani King to pick up Team Pursuit gold. Stepping in to the shoes of Rowsell, a key member of the GB's Team Pursuits recent domination, Barker displayed courage, confidence and most importantly the required ability to step up with aplomb. A fantastic achievement considering the youngster has yet to sit her A-Levels and this experience will stand her in good stead for her development in the sport.
Other youngsters that took to the track included Kian Emadi and Vicky Williamson, 20 years and 19 years of age respectively. Despite Emadi failing to pick up a medal, his performance in the Men's 1KM Time Trial showed a taster of what we can expect in the future, finishing just outside the podium positions in fourth. Meanwhile Williamson teamed up with Becky James to take bronze in the team sprint, yet another indication of the wealth of talent Britain now holds in it's wide talent pool.
These five have shown they are ready to make the step up, despite their young age. However it's easy to forget that despite essentially being the senior heads of the squad, the likes of Laura Trott and Philip Hindes are both still only just out of their teenage years at 20. The success of Trott at such a young age is sensational, having won Gold at the Summer Olympics in both the Omnium and Team Sprint and though she could not quite repeat the feat at this years world championships - she finished a worthy silver medallist in the Omnium this time around - the talent the Harlow-based cyclist possesses is immense. Hindes suffered a poor World Championships but his Olympic performances in the Team Sprint show that the ability is there if he can work hard to fulfil his potential.
It's been a long week of cycling in Belarus that began on Wednesday with success that carried all the way through to the final day on Sunday. They may not hold the same status that the likes of Hoy and Pendleton carry, but by goodness this current crop look that little bit special. British cyclings stature continues to rise.
image: © simonw92