Katie Archibald and Elinor Barker capped off a perfect week at the UEC Track Elite European Championships in Grenchen with victory in the Madison – Archibald’s 20th elite European title and her third of the championships.
Emma Finucane further burnished her growing reputation with a sensational silver in the women’s keirin, as the Great Britain Cycling Team signed off from the championships with four gold, six silver and two bronze medals.
On the hunt for her third European title of the championships, Katie Archibald teamed up with Elinor Barker for the Madison, and Archibald put the pair in the driving seat from the off, sprinting to maximum points in the second and fourth sprints.
Olympic champion in this event, Archibald’s bike handling was put to the test as she looked to set Barker for the fifth sprint, narrowly avoiding a crash, and Barker repaid her by taking maximum points once more. Barker then followed this up with another victory in the seventh sprint, giving the pair a commanding lead.
The race was by no means over however, and Barker had to work hard to chase down a dangerous group containing Belgium, The Netherlands and Italy with 48 laps to go. Further points in the ninth and a victory for Archibald in the 10th sprint further strengthened their hold on top spot, and as others turned their attentions to silver and bronze, Barker eased to victory in the final sprint to see the pair take a flawless victory by a margin of 13 points.
Afterwards, Archibald said: “I’ve only missed one Europeans in my career, it’s the first thing I wore a GB jersey for. I was selected in 2013 to ride with El for the first time, and I’ve only missed once since then which was last year. It’ll now be my 10th season of having a European jersey and I’m proud every time I get to do that.
“We were pretty clear in how we were going to break the race down and where our effort needed to go, and in the final third of that it was with anybody who went up the road. There were five teams all on our knees but none of us willing to let that elastic break, so we survived and left with the jersey.”
Barker added: “After team pursuit Katie said this is the day that we get to do the thing that we’re one of the best in the world at. We don’t get to do it very often, so let’s just go and enjoy it. For me it’s my first Madison for a really long time. I used to do it all the time and maybe forgot quite how special it is, and it’s also a privilege to get to ride with somebody like Katie. What’s not to enjoy?”
After their team sprint silver on the opening day of the championships, Emma Finucane and Sophie Capewell both safely progressed through the first round of the keirin with second place finishes.
Finucane was first up in the second round, and a confident ride saw her take second place in between Emma Hinze and Mathilde Gros to qualify for the final. Capewell, who collected her second medal of the week on Friday with a brilliant individual sprint bronze, would not progress beyond the second round on this occasion. She later took fourth place in the 7-12 final to finish 10th overall.
A former junior European champion in 500m time-trial, Finucane now found herself in elite company in the final, but the young Welsh rider was remarkably unfazed, and timed her final sprint to perfection to overtake Emma Hinze and secure the silver medal behind world champion Lea Sophie Friedrich.
Afterwards, Finucane said: “I was really proud of myself to make it to the final. At one point I was thinking I was being really patient but then I just gave it everything to the finish line and to come away with second – I honestly can’t believe it.
“I had Lea’s wheel, the world champion, and I thought just stick on that, and then I looked up and thought ‘I’ve just come second’. I’ll remember this for the rest of my life – just being stood up there on the podium with the Germans, thinking this is crazy.”
Newly-crowned European omnium champion Ollie Wood teamed up with Fred Wright for a pulsating men’s Madison, and the pair started brightly, picking up points in five of the first six sprints.
Wood and Wright remained in the hunt until the final stages, winning the 11th and 12th sprints, but didn’t quite have enough in the tank for force themselves onto the podium. With a strong break from Italy and Portugal seeing them take the lion’s share of the points in the closing stages, the British pair finished in seventh place, with Germany taking a thrilling victory on the final sprint.
Jack Carlin started the men’s keirin strongly, winning his first round comfortably to secure an automatic passage to round two.
Hamish Turnbull finished fourth in the final heat of round one, meaning he would need to win his repechage to progress to the second round, and the young rider made no mistake.
Returning for the final session of the championships, both riders took the initiative in their second round heats, but exited the competition after finishing outside of the top three. Carlin and Turnbull finished third and fifth respectively in the 7-12 final, and both riders return home with a silver medal from the opening day’s team sprint, ahead of a busy schedule of racing to come.
The Great Britain Cycling Team ends the championships second in the medal table, and qualifying for the Paris Olympic Games continues later this month with the first UCI Track Nations Cup of the year in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Header image: Elinor Barker and Katie Archibald of Great Britain celebrate winning Gold in the Women’s Madison final at the 2023 UEC Track Elite European Championships, Tissot Velodrome, Grenchen, Switzerland. Credit: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com