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By John Wilcockson
The fans that almost filled Carson, California’s ADT Event Center velodrome on Thursday night had come hoping to cheer homeboy Colby Pearce to a world championship medal in the points race. But when the Colorado rider failed to break into the top 10, the crowd turned its attention to the last race of the night: the men’s team sprint.
With no American team entered, locals chose Great Britain’s Jamie Staff (also a world BMX champion) who lives just down the road, near San Diego, as a local favorite. Staff has been something of a fixture at the new Carson velodrome, training two or three times a week for the past few months.
“He works harder than anyone I know,” said Staff’s track coach Roger Young, who is also the velodrome director. “When he disappointed at the Olympics, he put everything he had into preparing for the world’s.”
The hard work has paid off. Staff was drafted into Britain’s sprint team as the lead-off guy rather than taking the second of the three slots that he has ridden in the past in this three-lap relay. Backing him up on Thursday were the past two Olympic kilometer time trial champions Jason Queally and Chris Hoy. They had the power, but did they have the precision needed in this exacting event? They had practiced as a trio here in Los Angeles for only the past 10 days.
The Brits, average age of 31, faced much younger opponents in the final: Teun Mulder, Tim Veldt and Theo Bos of the Netherlands, who average 22. There were great expectations from a large Dutch media contingent that came to California in the hope that their main star, Bos, can return home with two or three gold medals.
Things did look good for the Dutch when Mulder on the first lap and Veldt on the second gave Bos a lead of 16-hundredths of a second going into the final lap. Bos looked good, too, but the bull-like Hoy, roared on by the fans on the other side of the track, was flying. His final surge gave the Brits a time of 44.379, well ahead of the Dutch’s 44.713.
The happiest of the British trio was the senior member, Queally, 34. “I’ve won golds at the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics,” he said, “but this is my first world championship. It feels great.”
Men’s Points Race
In terms of pure last-minute excitement you couldn’t have asked for more from the men’s points race. After grabbing the lead near the midpoint of the 160-lap race at the ADT Event Center velodrome on Thursday night in Carson, California, Ukraine’s Volodymyr Rybin needed a final-lap burst to win the world title, beating back the late charge of Greece’s Ioannis Tamouridis.
Rybin took second in the final sprint, earning three points. That gave him 38 for the race, two more than Tamouridis, who settled for second. Spain’s Juan Llaneras grabbed the final podium place.
“To be honest I did not expect it,” said Rybin. “This was a very strong competition.”
Pre-race favorites Colby Pearce of the U.S. and Russian Olympic champion Mikhail Ignatiev were never factors, as neither was among the 10 riders who grabbed the 20-point bonus that came with lapping the field. It was a disappointing evening for Pearce, who hinted this could have been his last world’s race.
“I’m frustrated because my legs just weren’t what they have been,” said the 32-year-old American, who ended up 13th. “I just want to shoot myself right now. I don’t know what happened. On Tuesday I got nervous because I was like I really wish the race was tonight because I feel stellar. And then Wednesday it was like ‘damn what’s wrong with me?’”
Pearce will get another shot at the podium on Sunday in the Madison, where he’ll be paired with 2000 Olympic sprint champion-turned endurance rider, Marty Nothstein.
“I got out there and I had something, but it wasn’t world’s something that’s for sure,” added Pearce about his disappointment. “There’s no hiding in the points race. If you are not flying you are not doing anything.
“I’ve got one more shot in the Madison. I know Marty is going really well right now, I think the best he’s ever gone in his career as an endurance rider. So I’ve got that to motivate me.”
Meanwhile, Rybin could relish in what was the biggest win of his long career. He earned his 20-points bonus with 126 laps to go, leading the charge in a four-rider break that included Australia’s Sean Finning, German Guido Fulst and Japan’s Kei Uchida.
The bonus, plus six second-place finishes during sprint laps gave Rybin his winning total.
“I was worried when the Greek rider went ahead of me,” Rybin said, “but I was ready and was able to make one last attack.”
Racing at the world track championships continues on Friday with a morning and evening session. Rainbow jerseys will be handed out in the women’s points race, men’s kilo, men’s individual pursuit and keirin.
Reigning points race Olympic champion Mikhail Ignatiev didn’t have the best start to his stay in Southern California. The Russian showed up at the Home Depot Center velodrome without the World Cup leader’s jersey he won over the winter and was promptly fined 100 Swiss francs.
“He came without it so we had to give him another jersey,” said the UCI’s Enrico Carpani. “The rules say you have to wear the jersey.”
A wrap for Colby?
Thursday may have been the last world’s points race for American Colby Pearce, though he said he’d need to take some time to think about his future.
“I don’t know. I was kind of like well if I do well here that might motivate me for another year, now I’m like I should be done,” he said. “I don’t know. I’ll have to let this sink in. I’ve got to see how the Madison goes. Also Marty and I have talked about trying to do six-days together this winter. And if that goes well then I might carry it on. Who knows?” Women’s 500m TT
There was a surprise in the opening event of the championships, the women’s 500-meter time trial, when the defending world and Olympic champion Anna Meares of Australia decided to start the race after all. “We almost flicked it,” she said, “but then we figured we would give it a shot.”
The 21-year-old from Queensland — who broke the world record in Athens to become the first woman to break the 34-second barrier (33.952) — gave it more than just a shot. She knew that the relatively slow boards of the ADT facility wouldn’t produce a world record but she did get the fans on their feet, urging her to what they hoped would be her second rainbow jersey.
Meares, the final starter, made a strong opening effort, knowing she had to beat the leading time of 34.738 set a few minutes earlier by the second favorite, Natalia Tsylinskaya of Belarus.
The Aussie’s opening 250-meter lap time was 31 hundredths slower; while her second lap was slightly faster than Tsylinskaya’s. It looked for a moment as though the dark-haired Meares was going to do it, but she faded in the last few pedal strokes and stopped the clock in 34.752 –- just 14 hundredths of a second behind the winner.
Meares was happy with her silver medal, pointing out that she hadn’t been training for this event this winter. Rather she had been focusing on the sprint and keirin, both of which events she will be tackling this weekend.
For Tsylinskaya, the 29-year-old blond from Belarus, this was her third world title, after she won gold in Ballerup, Denmark (2002) and Stuttgart, Germany (2003). Tsylinskaya prepared well for her third rainbow jersey, as when she won this same event at the UCI World Cup on the same velodrome three months ago, she recorded a winning time of 34.740. Thursday night it was 34.738. You can’t be more consistent than that.
On Friday, the session starting at 7 p.m. will see a capacity crowd urging on a true local, Erin Mirabella, who hopes to give the U.S. its first medal of the championships in the women’s 25km points race. Her main opponents will be the same ones who defeated her at the Athens Olympics: the veteran Russian Olga Slyusareva and silver medalist Belem Guerrero of Mexico.
The favorites in the three men’s finals are Hoy, Queally and Bos in the kilometer time trial; Germany’s 2000 Olympic champion Robert Bartko in the 4km pursuit; and Jobie Dajka of Australia in the rough-and-tumble keirin.
WOMEN'S 500 METER TIME TRIAL
1. TSYLINSKAYA Natallia BLR 34.738
2. MEARES Anna AUS 34.752
3. HIJGENAAR Yvonne NED 34.928
4. KANIS Willy NED 35.056
5. PENDLETON Victoria GBR 35.088
6. ABASSOVA Tamilia RUS 35.109
7. MUENZER Lori-Ann CAN 35.217
8. KRUPECKAITE Simona LTU 35.376
9. FRISONI Elisa ITA 35.395
10. NIVERT Céline FRA 35.628
11. SANCHEZ Clara FRA 35.730
12. FANG Tian CHN 35.974
13. CONZELMAN Rebecca USA 36.074
14. PANZER Susann GER 36.122
15. CONTRERAS Nancy MEX 36.343
16. SARA Magdalena POL 36.983
17. PRUDNIKOVA Alena RUS 37.497
Did Not Start
MUCHE Christin GER
MEN'S 40KM POINTS RACE
1. RYBIN Volodymyr UKR 38
2. TAMOURIDIS Ioannis GRE 36
3. LLANERAS ROSSELLO Juan ESP 34
4. NEWTON Christopher GBR 32
5. FULST Guido GER 31
6. HENDERSON Gregory NZL 31
7. FINNING Sean AUS 31
8. AESCHBACH Alexander SUI 25
9. RATAJCZYK Rafal POL 23
10. SOBAL Yauheni BLR 20
11. SCHEP Peter NED 17
12. CURUCHET Juan Esteban ARG 12
13. PEARCE Colby USA 8
14. VAN MECHELEN Wouter BEL 8
15. LAZAR Petr CZE 5
16. CICCONE Angelo ITA 5
17. WONG Kam-Po HKG 5
18. IGNATIEV Mikhail RUS 5
19. CHERNYSHOV Ilya KAZ 3
20. ZABKA Jozef SVK 0
DNF UCHIDA Kei JPN
DNF GILBERT Martin CAN
MEN'S TEAM SPRINT
1. Great Britain 44.379 (HOY Chris, QUEALLY Jason, STAFF Jamie)
2. Netherlands 44.713 (BOS Theo 13.859, MULDER Teun, VELDT Tim)
3. Germany 44.790 , (JOHN Matthias , NIMKE Stefan, WOLFF René
4. France 44.835 (BOURGAIN Mickaël, BAUGE Grégory, TOURNANT
5. Poland 45.460 (FURMAN Rafal, KWIATKOWSKI Lukasz, ZIELINSKI Damian)
6. Japan 46.389 (NARITA Kazuya, OIKAWA Yusho, WATANABE Kazunari)
7. Greece 46.536, BARGKAS Kleanthis, MANTZOURANIS Athanasios, VOUKELATOS
8. Czech Republic 46.597, (BURAN Pavel, KANKOVSKY Alois, VRBA Ivan)
9. Russia 46.752 (KIRILTSEV Vladimir, LEOPOLD Dmitry, RUBAN Sergey)
10. Canada 46.860, (MACKINNON Cam, MORIN Yannik, SMITH Travis)
11. Ukraine 46.861, (KULACHKOVSKIY Vitaliy, LOPATYUK Maksym, VYNOKUROV