LONDON (VN) — Just 90 minutes after crashing hard on the velodrome during the scratch race Sunday, Danish rider Lasse Hansen won the gold medal in the first-ever Olympic track omnium.
Bryan Coquard of France took silver, with Ed Clancy of host nation Great Britain taking bronze.
Canadian Zach Bell, winner of Sunday’s scratch race, took eighth place, with American Bobby Lea finishing 12th.
Viewed as the “decathlon of track cycling,” blending a mix of endurance and sprint disciplines to crown the eventual winner, the omnium is a lowest-score-wins format. Points are tallied based on placement in each of six events, and the rider with the lowest number of points wins the gold medal (i.e., the best possible score would be one point per event, for a total of six).
World omnium champion Glenn O’Shea (Australia) led the standings after the morning’s 4km individual pursuit, won by Hansen.
After the fourth of six events O’Shea led with 17 points, ahead of Clancy and Hansen, each with 19. Ella Viviani (Italy) sat at 20 points, with Coquard at 22 and Roger Kluge (Germany) at 24.
Hansen tangled with Clancy and crashed early in the 15km scratch race, which was marked by a nine-man group lapping the field; in that move were Lea, Bell, Viviani, Kluge, Coquard, Hosung Cho (South Korea), Eloy Teruel (Spain), and Martyn Irvine (Ireland).
With a maximum of five laps allowed to rejoin the race, the Danish rider took a quick bike change and, running on adrenaline, bridged across, alone, to the leaders.
“When I hit the ground in the crash, I thought, ‘This is it, it’s over, there no chance left, I ‘m done here, I’m out of the medals,’” Hansen said. “But I got back on the bike, and I didn’t feel that bad. Then I came around (to take a lap) alone, and it was just an unreal feeling. I came back into the fight for gold, and that gave me the will and the power to finish it.”
Those missing the move included O’Shea and Clancy, the current and former world omnium champions, who, by marking each other, both lost any chance of winning the gold medal.
“I think a few of us went into the scratch race knowing it would make or break us,” Clancy said. “Even assuming I would win the kilo, those guys are all good at kilo, so I knew I had to stick with them. I knew I had to follow O’Shea and Lasse, but I lost both of them.
“O’Shea and I both lost (the omnium) in the scratch race. I followed him around, he’s a lot stronger than I am in the points race and scratch race. I was hoping for him to tow me around a bit, and I think he was looking for me to help him out, and in the end, Lasse rode us both off his wheel.”
O’Shea was philosophical about the way the contest played out.
“I put myself right in the bike race but in the first 10 laps you turn around and you’ve got four or five blokes just lining up trying to attack you. That’s the way things go,” he said.
“In the end I just didn’t have the legs and the best person won. That’s the way it goes.”
Bell, who rides with the Canadian Pro Continental team SpiderTech-C10, won the scratch race in a two-up sprint with Teruel.
“I think I’ve been able to grow into one of the better scratch racers in the world,” Bell said. “I know how to race it, and I knew given where I was on the rankings, I’d be given a little more of a leash. And that’s all I need from some of these guys. I’m up there with the best of them, and if they give me anything, then I can perform my best.”
Following the scratch race, Hansen, Viviani and Coquard were all tied at the top of the omnium standings, with 25 points. Behind, Kluge had 28, Clancy had 29 and O’Shea had 31. Bell had 39 points and sat seventh, while Lea had 48 points and sat 10th.
Clancy, the red-headed 27-year-old who was part of Great Britain’s gold-medal-winning team pursuit squad on Thursday, won the final event of the omnium, the 1km time trial, with an astonishing time of 1:00.981 to O’Shea’s 1:02.513.
The last two riders to go were Hansen and Viviani, and once Hansen crossed the line with a 1:02.314, the second-fastest time only to Clancy, the Danish rider pumped his fist, the gold medal assured. Viviani’s 1:04.239 was only ninth best, dropping him to sixth.
Hansen won with the lowest score, 27 points.
“It feels weird. I still cannot believe it. It’s so unreal,” Hansen said. “It’s the biggest thing that you can ever achieve for an omnium rider, so it’s just a crazy feeling.”
Coquard, who will ride with Europcar on the road next season, took silver, with 29 points.
“I’m one of the fastest in the sprint events, but in the endurance events I had some difficulties,” Coquard said. “After the world championships (in Melbourne) I worked on it with my staff. I had five people just for me. I thank them all, it was the ideal omnium for me.”
Clancy took bronze with 30 points.
“In the points race, those guys just tore me apart, but that elimination saved my race,” Clancy said. “In the scratch, I was in it to win it but I didn’t have the legs. I don’t know who finished where.
“I had the form of my life in the kilo, the flying lap and the individual pursuit. I beat them by a mile in all of them. At one point I was looking at getting the gold, but in the scratch, it just slipped away.”
Lea was pleased about finishing 12th at an Olympic Games.
“I feel really great about this,” he said. “My training with Brian Walton leading up to this has been amazing. The support from USA Cycling and staff out here has been amazing. It’s been a great environment for me to do my best performance.
“With the exception of being one-tenth of a second off a personal record in the flying lap, everything else I’ve done here has been my best to date. Wherever I end up, I can leave here knowing that I’ve ridden the best that I can.”
Bell, who won the 2010-11 World Cup omnium overall and took silver at the world omnium championships in April, wasn’t content with finishing eighth.
“It is what it is,” he said. “I kind of lost the legs in the last little while. Training was going good, expecting bigger things, I think everybody knew that, but it’s the Olympics and if everything is not on perfect point, you lose a little bit. …”
Bell said that in most of the events he was “on par, slightly subpar,” but lost a lot in the points race.
“And with other guys going they way they were, there’s no coming back from that,” he said. “Guys on podium definitely deserved it, and a lot of guys who have been on podium for last two years that weren’t on the podium.
“I was happy to be a part of it, but not coming away with what I’d hoped for.”