Published: 03rd Aug 2023 Images: Scottish Cycling

Holl and Unwin win GB’s first gold of home World Champs

Jenny Holl and her stoker Sophie Unwin won Great Britain’s first world title on the opening night of finals at the inaugural UCI Cycling World Championships.

Jenny Holl and her stoker Sophie Unwin won Great Britain’s first world title on the opening night of finals at the inaugural UCI Cycling World Championships.

The new super event, which features 13 different cycling disciplines and takes place in Glasgow and all across Scotland from 3-13 August, is extra special for the Scottish riders, who have the chance to pull on the famous rainbow World Champions jersey.

Holl and Unwin wasted no time in doing so, as in front of a typically vocal Glasgow crowd, they used all their strength to snatch Women’s B Tandem 1km Time Trial gold in the final half a lap, sending the crowd into a frenzy.

Having set a personal best of 1.07.95 in qualifying to top the leaderboard, the pressure was on to back up their efforts in the final. Out of the start gate last, the endurance pairing ride the event in a different way to most of their rivals, taking longer to get up to speed.

As in qualifying, they trailed by over a second at the halfway mark, but as the gap started to diminish, the crowd roared them on. As they flew towards the line, there was a collective deep breath until the big screen confirmed the British duo had won gold.

Stopping the clock in 1.08.302 it couldn’t have been much tighter, as they claimed gold by just 0.06 of a second, upgrading from the World bronze they won 12 months ago.

Delighted with their efforts, Holl said afterwards:

“There’s just no words that can do it justice! To win in this velodrome, with my friends and family in the crown, and the loudest voice I can hear is my dad, it’s just all I could have asked for and I’m just over the moon.”

On their start slow, finish fast tactics, Holl added:

“The gameplan was just to go as hard as we could. We’re always going to be slower in the opening lap but we’re always going to be able to bring it back at the end. That fourth lap is where we come into our own, and it showed. The only reason I knew we’d won was because of the crowd!”

Holl and Unwin go again in the Pursuit tomorrow, the Sprint at the weekend before moving down to Dumfries and Galloway for the Para-TT and Road next week.

There was also silverware for Lauren Bell and her compatriots in the Women’s Team Sprint after a brilliant match up against Germany in the final.

Fastest in the opening qualifying round, they then went again at the start of the evening session to secure a slot in the gold medal ride-off. Bell was quick out of the gate and put down her fastest lap of the day when it mattered most, to set the team up for a fast time.

And fast it was. After a British record earlier in the day, they bettered the World Record, but unfortunately Germany went even quicker to take the world title.

After that 45.923 time for silver, Bell reflected:

“It’s amazing. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to have the Worlds at your home track, the track where I learnt how to ride. When you walk up and the commentators say your name the crowd go crazy, so it’s such a special feeling.”

Neah Evans did herself proud in the Women’s Individual Pursuit, after being selected for the event last minute. Despite a crash in training hampering her preparations this week, she took almost two seconds off her personal best – set when winning bronze at the Commonwealth Games last year – in qualifying during the morning session.

That set her up for the bronze medal ride, that she attacked with similar venom, albeit slightly more control than her morning ride. Ahead until 2km, the Aberdonian was holding it together well, but her Kiwi opponent Bryony Botha turned on the afterburners to come back at her and take third.

Still, fourth in the World is a pretty special achievement in an event you don’t focus on, as she reflected afterwards:

“I didn’t really have expectations, as it was never a long-term plan that I was going to do the Individual Pursuit, so it was about coming out and seeing what I had, and using it as a primer ahead of the Madison, which is my main focus. It’s a bit bittersweet, as I’m really competitive and I’d have loved to have come away with a medal, but when you’re racing for a medal it feels pretty raw.”

Up in Fort William the Mountain Bike Downhill got underway, Aimi Kenyon and Nina Yves-Cameron in action in the Junior Women’s qualifying, where a late change by the UCI commissaires expand the final field from 15 to 30 was crucial, with both riders chance of final qualification much improved.

Scottish national champion Yves-Cameron was one of the early starters and was roared home by the crowd, and came home in 18th place.

The local rider was unaware of the late rule change until after she finished, as she told Scottish Cycling:

“I didn’t know at the start! In my head I was thinking I need to get down in the top 15 but it’s put me at ease now knowing that we’ll all get through and seeing so many girls race tomorrow.”

Kenyon, one of the favourites for this event, who was riding a new Irn-Bru inspired bike, came home in second place after a blistering, dare one say phenomenal, performance on the Aonach Mór.

The Invernesian said afterwards:

“I’m so happy with that – it wasn’t an incredible run but it was super clean so I’m really pleased with it.”

Tomorrow sees a packed day of action with Scotland’s four senior riders in qualifying action as well as Yves-Cameron and Kenyon fighting for the medals. Earlier in the day the first of our Race The Worlds Finals takes place, so make sure you get there early to cheer on the best young Scots fight for that Santini jersey.

Back in Glasgow in the velodrome Holl and Unwin go for more silverware, whilst Katie Archibald gets her campaign underway in the Women’s Team Pursuit.