Posted by Editoress on 03/26/05
Track World Championships Los Angeles CA
Lori-Ann Muenzer's long, long racing season has finally ended, after she was eliminated in the quarter finals of the Women's Sprint at the Track World Championships on Friday. The Olympic champion qualified fifth in the 200 metre seeding time trial, with a time of 11.543 seconds, and won her first round heat against Simona Krupeckaite of Lithuania with a come-from-behind ride in the final half lap of the race. Krupeckaite took the lead early in the race, then Muenzer dived around her to take it back, and powered away for the victory.
In the quarter finals, Muenzer went up against her Russian nemesis from Athens - Tamilia Abassova. In the Olympic final, Muenzer won the first race against Abassova, lost the second, and then took the gold medal in the deciding ride. However, the UCI introduced new rules at these world championships, making the quarter final round a winner-take-all single race.
Muenzer admitted afterwards to making mistakes. "In the first race, against the Lithuanian (Krupeckaite), I was spot on. But I played into Tamilia's hands in the next race, by taking the lead too early; I needed to be more patient. Then, when she dove to the bottom of the track (to take the lead back), I didn't shut the door on her."
Muenzer wasn't the only top-ranked rider to exit the competition early due to the rule change - Points Race world champion Natalia Tsylinskaya of Belarus was relegated in her heat for leaving her lane will riding against Kerrie Meares. Tsylinskaya won, but did it while taking Meares high up the banking in the final two corners.
Despite the early exit from the competition, Muenzer was philosophical. "That's bike racing. I haven't had a break since the Olympics last August, with appearances, the World Cup and preparing for the Worlds, but now I guess I'm on holidays. I fly back to Edmonton on Sunday, then to Toronto for the Canadian Sports Awards, and then Banff for another award on April 1st.
"Then I think I will just take two weeks at home, and try to figure out my game plan and business plan. I have to sit down with Steen (Madsen, her coach) and look at the schedule leading up to the Commonwealth Games next March (in Melbourne, Australia)."
Muenzer also commented on the one ride format for the quarters: "It sure puts a lot of pressure on you." Martin Barras, ex-pat Canadian who is head coach of the powerhouse Australian squad, wasn't as diplomatic: "if it had been two out of three, we would have seen different results in some of the competitions, I think. We and some other teams have spoken with the UCI. There are two or three very good riders out now based on the draw. If you eliminate after two rides, then that is clear, the best rider moves forward, but one ride is a problem."
The reason for the format change is to reduce the schedule, but a better way might be to cut out some of the interminable Keirin repechages.
Friday also saw the Canadians race in the Kilo, where Travis Smith finished 13th, and the women's Points Race, where Mandy Poitras was a career-high 7th. In the men's Keirin, Teun Mulder (Netherlands) took the rainbow jersey, while 2000 Olympic champion German Robert Bartko returned to the track from an aborted attempt on the road to win the Individual Pursuit.
Poitras was in the pack for the first 82 laps of the women's 100 lap event, unable to get more than a few metres clear on numerous breakaway attempts. A battle of contrasting strategies was taking place between defending champion Olga Slyusareva (Russia) and last year's silver medalist Vera Carrara (Italy). Slyusareva used her superior speed to take points in the intermediate sprints, while Carrara stole a lap mid-race.
Poitras took a leaf out of Carrara's book, rolling off the front of the group with 18 laps remaining in the race. "It was a 'nothing to lose' situation - now or never if I was going to get on the scoreboard. I tested first of all, and they weren't chasing, so I gave it everything I had.
"I was going for the points at 10 laps to go, and then I got on with two others who were chasing to try and stay away to the finish. We were caught with three to go and I tried to position to score in the final sprint but no go. It was frustrating, I came in really prepped - I should have gone for it earlier. Normally I'm just a sprinter, so to hold out there for 15 laps; I've never been able to do that before."
Poitras was actually in a good position to steal a lap (and 20 points), as she gained over half a lap until Carrara attacked the field, which upped the pace and brought everyone back together. Into the final sprint, Carrara led Slyusaeva by 4 points. A win by Slyusareva and no points for Carrara would give the Russian the victory. Slyusareva did win, but Carrara was right behind, and took the title by 2 points.
The Kilo field was stacked with top talent, led by Olympic champion Chris Hoy (Great Britain) and Theo Bos (Netherlands). Hoy's teammate Jason Queally laid down a very fast time midway through the 18 rider field - 1:01.230 . His time would hold up until bos, the second last rider, knocked a slim 65-thousandths off. Then it was up to Hoy, but he clearly didn't have the speed, finishing in 1:02.262, only good enough for bronze.
Travis Smith, competing at his first world championships, had a strong performance. "I was three-tenths slower than my personal best, but the first 500 metres was my best ever. The goal was to go through the first 500 in the top-5, because that is what I've really been working on with my coach (Erin Hartwell). We didn't manage that (10th), but 8th for the first lap is very encouraging.
"The first 500 took its toll, because I could really feel it after that. I'm pretty pleased, I didn't want to finish last! I'm actually more happy with the Team Sprint yesterday (Friday), since we took a second off our best time. My whole program is focussed on a two year plan for Commonwealth Games next year, so we are definitely ahead of schedule."
- The AEG (Anschutz Entertainment Group) held a press conference yesterday to announce the Tour of California for next February - an 8 day stage race of approximately 1100 kilometres. No dates, no route, no towns, but a pot full of money - $35 million U.S. for the first five years. AEG is owned by billionaire Philip Anschutz, and owns the LA Lakers, the facility where the Track Worlds is taking place (the track is a very small part of the complex) and many other properties. The organization will be working on sponsors, but has guaranteed the funds for the first five years, and wants to eventually have a race that is among the top two or three in the world. UCI President Hein Verbruggen was at the press conference, along with the California Secretary of education (on behalf of Governor Schwartzenager). The state is also behind the event.
- Among the casualties of the Keirin were Christian Stahl (USA) with a broken collarbone, and two former world champions - Jobie Dajka (Australia) and Arnaud Tourant (France). Dajka took out Tournant in their semi, when he tried to come through the middle and dropped down on the Frenchman, who had nowhere to go.
- There are no Canadians racing today, since Lori-Ann Muenzer was eliminated yesterday. Mandy Poitras will be in the Scratch Race tomorrow.
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