August 14/08 9:49 am - Beijing Olympics: Track Preview
Posted by Editoress on 08/14/08
We had a chance to talk to the Canadian track squad - Gina Grain, Martin Gilbert and Zach Bell - at their final training session before competition starts on Friday (the 15th). All three are in good spirits, and looking forward to the opportunity to compete in their first Olympic Games.
Zach Bell - Points Race and Madison
"The track itself is pretty standard as far as big tracks go, so not a lot of surprises there. The logisitics are good, things like transportation, and they've ironed out a few things since the test event. The [Olympic] Village is pretty impressive."
"Pretty much everything has been to plan for me. After [Road] Nationals I did road up to Gastown, and I could feel that the form was coming. I was working mainly [at BC Superweek] to help Pinner [Andrew Pinfold], but now I am confident I am where I wanted to be.
After that I spent a week to 10 days of motorpacing, then went to Switzerland to the UCI training centre. It's an indoor track with controlled conditions, and we were able to get a lot of track time. Richard [Wooles - BC coach] knows his way around the area after working there with the UCI, so it was perfect; I came out of it with what I needed."
As to his chances: "If we were at a World Cup I would say a top-5, but this is the Olympics, so you never know what form these guys are bringing. Some have had a long road season ... I know that I should be able to be effective in the race. I'd be satisfied with a top-8, but it's the Olympics, so you're not racing for top-8. I'll be pushing every button, and if everything works out, then anyone could make the podium. It's a matter of making the right move."
"Svein's ride was motivating for sure. It's indicative of the level that comes from our team. With both been working at this together for the last year."
The Madison: "For Martin and I it won't be exchanges that make the difference. We are still working on form; we just can't sustain the 60 kilometres an hour that it takes. But my focus has been the Points Race, and essentially that's what I've been preparing for."
"Martin and I have had rides at the World Cups where one or the other has the form, so it's a matter of both having good form on the same day."
Gina Grain - Points Race
On the Olympics: "It's big, it's exiting, and it's been fun."
"Richard [Wooles] has helped us prepare mentally and physically. Switzerland was excellent; all the facilities menat that we had everything we needed to do the best we can do. It's comforting to know that we did the best preparation that we could."
"This race is a little different than other Points Races, because of the selection system, so we have a few more pursuiters than we normally do at a World Cup or Worlds. On paper, I'm not a favourite, but at the Olympics anything can happen, and my form is the best I've ever had. I pulled a Personal Best in training today."
"I'm very confident, which is nice. Your'e not sure how your training will work, but I'm very happy with it. Having confidence in your form is comforting; I've never had the opportunity before to spend this much time getting ready for one event. So now it's just up to race day."
"I'm going into the race not with a number [result]. I want to be happy with the way I raced, knowing that I raced as hard as I could, and come out feeling good about my race. I'm more a diverse rider, not a sprinter and not a lapper, so I have to keep the options open."
Martin Gilbert - Madison
"The later entry for Canada in this event for sure had an effect. After Worlds, I thought our chance was over, but we applied for a wildcard, and I didn't know what to expect. I called the guy at the UCI for the track - Gilles Peruzy - and I asked about our chances, how I should prepare for the summer. He told me that there was a pretty good chance, so I was pretty excited."
"But after 2, 3, 4 weeks with nothing back, I thought it was over, so i focussed on the road. Then I finally found out just before the Road Nationals that there was a spot. So, I immediately switched my training. I took 4 days off to reset the body then went to Bromont [national training centre]. It sounds funny, but I did lots of Computrainer training, because that way I could see where I was and compare to my previous form. My program was Computrainer, track and road, but a lot less volume than on the road, and more maximum aerobic power and speed."
"It's hard to know exactly what we can do. I think Zach is in the best form of his life, and me too. The best we can be in the race is top-10 I think, but it will depend on the day. If Zach and I can both put it together on the same day physically and tactically, then we can have a good race. We haven't had a chance to train together yet; we will have the two days after the Points Race. Now is too late to start changing things."
We also spoke with Martin Barras, the Canadian ex-pat National Australian Track Coach, about what we expects to see at these Games.
"I think the scenario has been set for the last four years on who is strong, so we won't see any big surprises. Australia's biggest chances are the Men's Team Pursuit, Women's Sprint, Women's Individual Pursuit and Men's Team Sprint, which is more of an outside chance. The Points Race is much more difficult to predict. Cameron Meyer is just outstanding, and is bound to break out soon. It could be here."
"It's fair to say that world records will be broken here. It is a fantastic track and the athletes are peaking ... The Chinese have done an extremely good job: the climate control is good, there are easy transitions in the corners, and they have taken care of so many things. For example, they have trippled the number of trusses under the track - when the riders go by you don't hear any boards banging. There is no vibration, which is a key factor in performance."
"Some no names to watch out for? Well, the Malaysian [team] sprint team; just making it here was a huge improvement for them. Their rider Azizul Awang is still an unknown quantity to most; he eliminated Theo Bos a month ago in a race, so he could be a sprint surprise. Also the Dutch pursuiter Huizenga."
Can Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins each get three golds? "It is in the realm of possibility to do three each. But we will be doing our hardest to stop them!"
The Canadians? "Some of them have had a difficult journey to get here; including the Madison by the seat of their pants. Gina is a seasoned verteran, and for her I think it depends on how the race goes. The style of racing may suit her more than a regular points race. She needs a hard, open race, not a tactical one."