Posted by Editoress on 03/25/10
Day 1 of the 2010 Track World Championships saw four world titles awarded, with Australia taking two, and the U.S. and Germany splitting the other two. Canada had entries in all four events, with Tara Whitten's ninth in the Individual Pursuit the highest placing.
Women's Individual Pursuit
The women opened the racing programme with the 3000 metre individual pursuit, and the big showdown was expected to be between the defending champion, Alison Shanks of New Zealand and the returning, two-time champion Sarah Hammer (USA). Hammer had dominated the event prior to the Beijing Olympics, winning in 2006-2007, and taking silver in 2008. However, in Beijing she completely came apart in the Pursuit, and crashed in the Points Race, breaking her collarbone. Since then, she has laid low, until yesterday, when she shattered the field.
In qualifying, Ellen Van Dijk (Netherlands) set the fast early time, to eventually end up fifth, but Hammer, in the eighth of 12 pairings, obliterated the earlier mark, with a time of 3:27.826 - the only rider to go below 3:30. Britain's Wendy Houvenaghel set the second best time, to meet Hammer in the gold medal final, but it was 2.5 seconds slower. Shanks, meanwhile, in the final pairing against Whitten, struggled in the early laps of her heat, before recovering to grab third for the bronze medal final against Vilija Sereikaite of Lithuania.
"It's not as good a ride as I was hoping for," admitted Whitten. "Going in the last heat was a real benefit, because I knew what time I needed [to reach the medal round], and it would have to have been a PB [personal best]. I went out strong, but just couldn't hold it."
Whitten also revealed that her focus has shifted from the Pursuit to the Omnium, an event that she won the silver medal in at last year's world championships.
"I've been really concentrating on the Omnium, which means some less focus on the Pursuit and more on the speed events that make up part of the Omnium, because now the Omnium is an Olympic event."
In the medal round, Shanks again started slow - nearly two seconds down on Sereikaite after the first 1000 metres - before recovering somewhat, but still finished fourth, out of the medals. The gold medal race was close for the first 1000 metres, with Houvenaghel less than three-tenths of a second back. But Hammer inexorably pulled away in the next 2000 metres to finish nearly four seconds up on the British rider.
Women's 500M Time Trial
The women's 500 saw another comeback, with Australia's Anna Meares returning to the form that made her so dominant in the mid-2000's. Meares beat defending champion (and world record holder) Simona Krupeckaite of Lithuania by less than a tenth of a second (0.081 seconds) to win the world title, with Olga Panarine of the Belarus a surprise bronze medalist. Canada's Monique Sullivan finished 14th, half a second out of a top-ten placing.
"It was a personal best for me, but I was still hoping for a little better," commented Sullivan, a former bronze medalist at the Junior Worlds. "This isn't usually my best event, but I focussed more on it in training after I didn't qualify for the Sprint [at the Worlds]. The standing start isn't my strongest position, but my speed is better [than before], so it looks good for the Keirin."
Men's Team Sprint
This was expected to be the big showdown of the day, with World Cup winners Germany going up against perennial favourites France and Great Britain. Great Britain had the 'A' team they were missing last year, when anchor Sir Chris Hoy was missing due to injury.
China set the early fast time, in their heat against the Canadian trio of Joe Veloce, Travis Smith and Stephane Cossette. Canada's greatest speed came in the middle lap, with Smith recording the eighth fastest split, and the team finished 11th, 0.387 seconds out of top-10, their goal for the event.
"We were hoping for a top-10," admitted Smith, "and it's disappointing to be one out of that, but I don't think we did that bad either. Technically we rode well, just not fast enough. We have two guys who are just 20 years old, so they are on a steep learning curve. Being at your first Worlds is stressful, so I think they did well. For me, I'm looking forward, and I feel the Keirin could be good. I definitely have the speed to make the Final, so we'll just have to see how the race develops."
Stephane Cossette, the anchor for the Canadian team, was also hoping for a better result.
"I feel good, but also a little bit bad, because we expected to have a faster time and be in the top-10. But, that's sport. I felt good about my ride, it was technically good, and now we have to learn about competing in stress[ful] situations, and make adaptations ... We can improve a lot."
World record holder and Olympic champion Great Britain, anchored by a clearly on-form Hoy, was bumped from the gold medal race by France and Germany, who rode last in the qualifying round. France won the qualifier with the scorching speed of their anchor Kevin Sireau, but Sireau was only three-thousandths of a second ahead of Hoy, who showed that he is fully recovered from injury - it should be an interesting showdown between the two in the Sprint.
In the medal round, the Brits easily beat China, but their heart clearly wasn't in it. For the gold medal, Germany got off to an excellent start, and then managed to hold off the faster final two French riders to win the world title by an extremely tight two-hundredths of a second.
Men's Points Race
This race was all about one rider - the defending champion, Cameron Meyer of Australia. Meyer seemed to be ride away from the field almost at will, lapping them twice - once in a solo breakaway. Meyer finished an impressive 37 points ahead of silver medalist Peter Schep (Netherlands) and 43 in front of Milan Kadlec (Czech Republic). While Schep was fairly secure in second, Kadlec had to fight off both Chris Newton (Great Britain) and Ingmar de Poortere (Belgium) for the bronze. In the final five laps of the race, Meyer went to the front of the field and towed them for nearly three laps, as if to say "see, I'm in charge here."
Canada's Zach Bell, winner of two World Cups, had a disappointing day, getting lapped and eventually dropping out. Bell looked fine in the first third of the race, with good positioning, and confidently winning the fourth sprint for points. However, while his speed was good, he began to struggle at the halfway point and was dropped.
He revealed after the race: "I've been sick, and almost had to go on antibiotics last week. The pace was fine, but I couldn't recover well after winning the sprint, and then I was directly behind a guy who crashed, and lost positions. It just wasn't my day, but I'm hoping for a better race in the Scratch."
- Canadian chief commissaire Wayne Pomario was busy handing out fines on day 1, with Bell receiving one for having the wrong race number (100 Swiss Francs), 100 SF also to Sarah Hammer for altering her number, and six countries getting slapped with 200 SF fines for late licence checks. However, the big one was to 500M TT bronze medalist Olga Panarine - a whopping 2000 SF for 'improper attire' at the awards ceremony (she wore leg warmers).
- Overheard in the British pit "I'll get Sir Chris's bike"
- Danish Crown Prince Frederik was at the event, and talked about taking a lap on the track. The photographers were given strict instructions that it 'forbidden' to take photos of the Crown Prince when he is eating. He also participated in the awards ceremonies - but only for the men...
- The temperature at the track is warm (to say the least) 25 C at track side and at least two degrees warmer in the stands.
- Much was being made about a new moulded carbon handlebar by 3T that Points Race winner Cameron Meyer was using (see closeup below). However, I don't think that it was the handlebar that made Meyer so dominant.
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