Cycling-Pendleton wins sprint title as Britain overshadow hosts

MELBOURNE, April 6 Fri Apr 6, 2012 10:17am EDT

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MELBOURNE, April 6 (Reuters) - Victoria Pendleton saw off arch-rival Anna Meares in a tense semi-final duel before sealing her sixth sprint title on Friday as Britain continued to overshadow their Australian hosts at the cycling world championships.

Olympic champion Pendleton then defeated Simona Krupeckaite 2-0 in the best-of-three final after the Lithuanian was relegated for coming off her line in the second-round sprint at Hisense Arena to clinch Britain's fourth title.

However, the disappointed home nation were buoyed by an unexpected win for Glenn O'Shea in the omnium.

O'Shea, who won a silver in the men's team pursuit on the opening day, was level on 20 points with Canadian Zach Bell going into the last leg of the six-round event, and his runner-up finish in the kilometre time trial was enough to secure the title.

Pendleton, 31, burst into tears and hugged her coaches in the British camp after her gold medal was announced over the loudspeaker.

The manner of her win was an anti-climax compared to the high drama that preceded it, as she and Australian Meares locked horns in a thrilling tussle in which both riders attacked aggressively and were punished for it.

'EMOTIONAL TITLE'

"This is probably the most significant and probably one of the most emotional world titles being the last time I'm going to do this so obviously it means a lot to me," Pendleton, who plans to retire after the London Olympics, told reporters.

"I'm delighted to win but it's nice to win by crossing the line first. Relegations always make you feel kind of a bit weird and iffy, so it's a shame in some respects and not great for the crowd either but, you know, they're the rules."

"I was just thinking 'come on Vic, put your legs up, you've got to get ready for a third'."

Pendleton overcame a bruising crash in the first round of her semi-final as she edged 2011 world champion Meares in a thrilling flight to the line to win the decider after her rival's second-round victory was disallowed.

Meares defeated Pendleton in the semi-final to win last year's title at Apeldoorn, and appeared to have the re-match wrapped up convincingly.

Pendleton had been left a tangle of bike and limbs on the velodrome after the first race, having made contact with Meares during a bid to catch her in the final straight.

Meares stormed to an easy victory in the second round, sparking raucous cheers from the packed terraces, but the fans' delight was cut short minutes later when she was relegated, also for moving illegally into her opponent's line.

PSYCHOLOGICAL BLOW

After a cagey start to the decider, with both riders carrying a warning, Pendleton mounted a stunning attack from before midway through the last lap to reel in Meares by a tyre length and land a psychological blow before the London Games.

The 28-year-old Meares recovered to thrash Ukraine's Lyubov Shulika 2-0 for the bronze but was devastated by her semi-final defeat.

"I really did think that I won it," she told reporters, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue.

"It was very disappointing to feel as though I had progressed through to the final and then to lose so agonisingly close in the third round.

"Mentally and emotionally I wavered a bit tonight and paid for it unfortunately."

Britain's four-times Olympic champion Chris Hoy survived a huge scare to scrape into the semi-finals of the men's sprint and set up a mouth-watering clash with team mate and reigning world champion Jason Kenny.

Scotsman Hoy suffered a stunning defeat to Frenchman Mickael Bourgain in the last 16 but won his repechage final before edging out German Robert Foerstemann in a photo finish in a frantic decider.

Hoy's semi-final battle with Kenny could decide which rider competes for Britain in the sprint at London, with only one berth allowed per team.

The winner will face either French two-time world champion Gregory Bauge or Australia's Shane Perkins in the final.

Poland's Katarzyna Pawlowska overhauled Melissa Hoskins of Australia in the final straight to win the non-Olympic scratch race.

(Editing by Alison Wildey)

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