From NBC Olympics researcher Rachel Thompson:
LONDON — Four American women pedaled into history Friday night at the World Track Cycling Championships, winning gold in the team pursuit.
It was the first team gold for U.S. men or women in a track cycling event at a World Championships or Olympics, USA Cycling confirmed. The win also took place on the same track as the 2012 Olympics, where the U.S. claimed team pursuit silver.
Two-time Olympic silver medalist Sarah Hammer, the lone holdout from the 2012 group, said the win, which comes at the twilight of her cycling career and the beginnings of those of her three young teammates, was especially meaningful.
“What we actually said to each other [before the race] was, we are all in this together,” Hammer, 32, said. “We’re almost like a protection mechanism in the team pursuit. We’re always surrounding each other no matter where we are and bringing that energy with us onto the track. … I am so proud.”
En route to gold, the team of Kelly Catlin, Chloe Dygert, Jennifer Valente and Hammer breezed to the finish more than four seconds faster than reigning Olympic champion Great Britain during qualifying Thursday.
They then dethroned 2015 World Champion Australia in the first round Friday with the second-fastest time in history.
In the final later Friday, they crossed the line 2.723 seconds ahead of Canada to claim the maiden title.
Hammer cited diligent teamwork and communication as keys to the group’s success.
Hammer has two Olympics under her belt, while her youthful teammates are all under 22. Dygert, who at 19 is too young for celebratory champagne, hadn’t ridden on a track until October of last year.
The win bodes well for the U.S. with the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in five months.
For Hammer, the gold came in a particularly significant place. As she glanced out the window of her hotel onto the former site of the Olympic athlete’s village, now a developed apartment complex, Hammer reached for her cell phone and sent a text to her London team pursuit group.
“I was sappy,” she said of teammates Dotsie Bausch, Jennie Reed and Lauren Tamayo. “I’m like, ‘You guys mean so much to me.’”
Hammer will take to the track at Worlds again for the omnium event, which concludes Sunday.