Karen Chávez, The Citizen-Times Published 12:26 p.m. ET Feb. 28, 2020
Think you’re fast on a bike? Can you go about 35.5 mph for 4 minutes straight?
Lily Williams, of Asheville, and her three Team USA teammates can, and did, which earned them the gold medal and rainbow jerseys Feb. 27 in women’s team pursuit at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Berlin, Germany.
This is the fourth time the U.S. women have won the World Championships in the past five years. They also won the race in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Perhaps even more astonishing, this is the first time Williams, 25, ever competed in a World Championships, in a sport she only took up a year ago. Williams, who is originally from Florida and moved to Asheville in 2017, started racing cyclo-cross in 2016 but didn’t take up track cycling until 2019.
“I’m honored to be a part of this world championship victory. My teammates and coaches put a lot of work into helping me get ready for my first world championship and to be part of the winning team is the best way I could have returned the favor,” Williams wrote to the Citizen Times by email from Germany.
“I’m looking forward to significant continued improvement in the next few months and already looking forward to getting back to training with the team,” she said.
Track cycling includes several disciplines that take place on a 250-meter banked track. Williams competes in the team pursuit, with four women on a team where only three have to finish.
The race consists of 16 laps, with each rider taking turns pulling on the front to block the wind for the other three, and then swings onto the back of the train of four.
The U.S. women won the race in 4 minutes, 11.235 seconds, at an average speed of 57.3 kilometers an hour, or 35.5 mph. They were 1.894 seconds faster than silver medalists Great Britain. Germany took bronze and Canada placed fourth.
“The team’s best time from this world championship is the best time this, or any, American team pursuit squad has done. At a long look they were riding about 2 seconds faster than anything we’ve done since 2016 at sea level,” said Tom Mahoney, USA Cycling marketing operations manager.
Having qualified first on Feb. 26, the team pursuit squad began the evening session racing against New Zealand in the final heat of the team pursuit semifinals. They clocked in at 4:11.634, 2.249 seconds ahead of the Kiwis.
Williams’ teammates were Chloe Dygert, of Brownsburg, Indiana; Kendall Ryan, of Ventura, California; Jennifer Valente, of San Diego; and Emma White, of Duanesburg, New York.
“I’m proud of what this team accomplished tonight,” Gary Sutton, USA Cycling’s head coach for women’s track endurance, said in a statement. “They pulled together and rode really well, like I knew they could. This is the starting point for Tokyo (Olympics), and our plan is to only go up from here.”
Another Asheville cyclist, Adrian Hegyvary, 36, had his best finish at a World Championship, finishing sixth in the men’s scratch race Feb. 27 in Berlin. Hegyvary and teammate Daniel Holloway, of Boulder, Colorado, will next compete in the Madison, a grueling endurance race, March 1.
Karen Chávez is an award-winning outdoors and environment reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times and USA TODAY Network. She is the author of “Best Hikes with Dogs: North Carolina,” and is a former National Park Service ranger.
Reach me: KChavez@CitizenTimes.com or on Twitter @KarenChavezACT
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