PUBLISHED: 12:02, 8 April 2012 | UPDATED: 21:59, 8 April 2012
The wooden road was running out for Sir Chris Hoy in Melbourne so he took the one desperate, daring and dangerous route that he alone had spotted.
With the keirin race unfolding off the bend into its final 50 metres, he swooped down more than the width of the three riders below and in front of him. All 14st 7lb of Scottish power moved like a turbocharged lorry steering viciously across a motorway from the outside lane to the hard shoulder.
He got to the bottom of the banked track and almost before a chink of space opened up he poked his spokes between the German Max Levy on his left and New Zealand’s Simon van Velthooven on his right. He then simply charged for the line.
Main man: Sir Chris Hoy celebrates after beating Maximilian Levy and Jason Kenny in the keirin
It conjured up his 11th world gold medal. And if this turns out to be his last world championship, it was an imperishable memory with which to exit the stage.
His mother and father, Carol and Dave, unfurled their flag. ‘The Real McHoy,’ it read. Who could possibly dissent? Nobody here yesterday, from his wife Sarra and his expat Scottish mates to a home crowd that saluted his brilliance as if he was one of their own. But go back 24 hours and it was a different story.
Sealed with a kiss: Hoy is congratulated by his wife Sara (left) and his mum Carol after his stunning victory
That was because Hoy had lost out in the sprint to Jason Kenny, his 24-year-old room-mate from Bolton who is vying with him for the one Olympic place in that event. Hoy had looked sluggish by his own powerful standards.
That low point followed disqualification from the team sprint last Thursday, when his new young team-mate Philip Hindes had erred at the changeover. Three golds at the London Olympics to match his historic treble in Beijing? Ludicrous.
On the line: Hoy narrowly defeats Germany’s Maximilian Levy to win the keirin in Melbourne
This, anyway, was the backdrop to a performance that was inexplicable even to him. ‘I have no idea how I did it,’ he said.
‘It was just the last-chance saloon. I had hesitated, waited too long and backed off. I had lost momentum and killed my run. With half a lap to go it was looking pretty bleak, but I knew they were fanning out and there was just a little chance. I went up the inside. The door opened and I just kept on sprinting.
‘It’s just a reminder that you never say die in bike racing.
‘I was keen to bounce back after Saturday. I was frustrated at myself yesterday and I wanted to make amends.’
There is no doubt that he will be selected for the Olympics in the keirin — one of his Beijing treble and his strongest suit — and the team sprint.
As for the place in the individual sprint, a decision could theoretically be delayed until the day before the heats begin. In reality, an announcement will be made at an as yet unspecified time before then.
Pure delight: Hoy celebrates on and off his bike after his stunning win in the keirin in Melbourne
One question, that Hoy perhaps tellingly aired himself, is whether it is prudent to conserve energy by concentrating on two rather than three events and so maximise his gold medal chances in the keirin.
My guess — though I would not put more than a fiver on it — is that Hoy will not be in the sprint. Whatever the future holds, he provided a fitting finale to a wonderful World Championships that saw eight world records set in five events.
On a patriotic level, we leave celebrating Britain’s five gold medals in Olympic disciplines to Australia’s three and France and Germany’s one each. Yes, Britain won seven in the pre-Beijing worlds in Manchester but that was dominance so freakish we might never see it repeated.
Best of British: Hoy and Kenny face a battle for the one place in the men’s sprint at the Olympics
A final few congratulations to the other British medallists in non- Olympic events yesterday: Jess Varnish, bronze in the 500 metres time trial, Wendy Houvenaghel, silver in the individual pursuit, and Ben Swift and Geraint Thomas in the madison. There was also bronze for Kenny when Van Velthooven was disqualified from the keirin for veering from the racing line.
For them, like me, it was a privilege to be at the party.