Brits enjoying unprecedented success
By John Wilcockson
Emotions ran high at the ADT Center velodrome Saturday night in Carson, California, when all four finals produced first-time world champions: Great Britain scored gold in the team pursuit and women’s sprint, Australia won the women’s pursuit, and Denmark took the men’s scratch race.
The British pursuiters won in grand style, crushing a young Dutch squad in the final by a four-second margin, Defending champion Australia took bronze ahead of New Zealand.
“We’ve been getting silver medals year in, year out,” said British veteran Chris Newton. “We were nearly there last year, so this makes up for all those disappointments.” In fact, Newton and his teammates Rob Hayles, Paul Manning and Steve Cummings were the first British pursuit team to win a gold medal in world or Olympic competition since the 1908 London Olympics.
The Brits success was also a wonderful result for their coach of the past seven years, Simon Jones, who last year won Britain’s top sports coaching award for the work he did with Olympic individual pursuit gold medalist Brad Wiggins.
While the British pursuit foursome’s result was not entirely unexpected, the victory of their compatriot Vicky Pendleton in the women’s match sprint was completely out of left field. A British woman had never before won this title in its 48-year history.
The 24-year-old Pendleton from Hitchin, England, was only 11th fastest in Friday’s qualifying round; but she battled through the competition to defeat Olympic sprint champion Lori-Ann Muenzer of Canada in the quarterfinal, then overcome Olympic TT champion Anna Meares in the semis, before facing reigning World Cup sprint champion Tamilia Abassova of Russia in the final.
Pendleton polished off the Russian in two straight rides, first diving inside Abassova to win the first heat, and then accelerating from the front to take the second one by a quarter-wheel. The new champion, 5-foot-5 and 130 pounds, was competing at only her third world’s, having placed fourth the previous two times.
Pendleton, who lists dressmaking as her main hobby, was shaking with emotion as she stepped off the track. “I just can’t [believe it],” she blurted. “I know it’s real, but I keep pinching myself, thinking that I’ll wake up.”
Among the first to congratulate Pendleton were the Australian sisters Anna and Kerrie Meares, who raced each other for the bronze. Younger sibling Anna took the medal after losing the first of their exciting best-of-three series.
Women’s individual pursuit
They’ve been roommates on the road for a good chunk of the last year. So it was only appropriate that Aussies Kate Bates and Katie Mactier were just across from each other on the track for the final of the women’s individual pursuit at the world track championships in the Carson, California, on Saturday night.
Mactier, the Olympic silver medalist in Athens, ended up the winner of this intra-squad battle, easily outpacing Bates in the gold medal round. Swiss über woman Karin Thürig bested Russian Elana Tchalykh for the bronze.
“It’s really hard,” said Mactier of facing off against one of her best friends. “It was the same at the Olympics. I had to go against one of my best mates.”
The difference this time, of course, is that instead of being beaten by Kiwi Sarah Ulmer, Mactier rode away the winner. The former Saturn pro posted a 3:38.72, with Bates coming home in 3:42.848.
“Persistence pays off,” concluded Mactier. “I’m just so thrilled. What better result than to have Australia 1-2. Kate and I have just spent the last four weeks in Adelaide training together. We’ve always prepared together. Our coach really worked us hard. It’s hard to explain how much time we put into our training.”
And all is not lost for Bates. After taking bronze in the women’s points race on Friday, and then her individual pursuit silver Saturday, she’ll have a chance to complete her collection in the scratch race on Sunday, the final day of the championships.
Meanwhile, Thürig said she wasn’t even going to come to Southern California until being talked into it at the last minute.
“I only started training a few weeks ago,” said Thürig, who won a road time trial bronze at the 2004 Olympics, took TT gold at the road world’s, and was in contention at the Ironman triathlon in Hawaii before a foot cramp forced her to withdrawal. “I took a lot of time off after all that, so I am not really in shape right now. I wasn’t sure if it was good decision to come here, but now I am happy.”
In the morning session on Saturday, U.S. riders Erin Mirabella and Giddeon Massie both failed to move out of qualifying. Mirabella was ninth in the individual pursuit’s opening round. She posted a 3:49.157.
“I could definitely feel last night in my legs a little bit,” she said of her 13th-place effort in the points race. “Since I was a little disappointed, sleep was a little difficult last night.”
Massie failed to advance in the sprint, clocking a 10.919 (21st). Only the top 16 riders advanced.
Men’s scratch race
For a moment — albeit a brief one — it looked as though the American track team might finally break through here in Southern California. With 10 laps to go in the 60-lap, 15km men’s scratch race, Jame Carney decided it was now or never. The Durango, Colorado resident darted off the front of the 19-rider field, hoping that he could gain enough of an advantage to hold on for a world championship win.
But despite the loudest crowd roars to date at this four-day event (The evening also featured the largest crowd ever at the ADT Event Center, a standing room only total of 2716), Carney came up short. He was swarmed over with four laps to go, and was then shot out the back where he stayed, finishing last in 19th.
“I gambled with a small gear,” explained Carney of his strategy to forgo any chance in a bunch sprint, and instead make his suicidal attack. “I thought at world’s there would be a lot of attacking. But it wasn’t like that. I wouldn’t have had a chance in the sprint.”
Instead it was a battle between reigning world champ Greg Henderson of New Zealand and 2005 World Cup winner Alex Rasmussen of Denmark. The pair were side-by-side coming around the last turn, but Rasmussen had the advantage of the inside line and a bigger gear. It was all the 20-year-old Dane needed to grab the biggest win of his young career.
“It was a lot of pressure because I was riding in the World Cup leader’s jersey, and a lot of riders were keeping an eye on me,” said Rasmussen, who will also be contesting the Madison on Sunday. “But it went perfect. It was a perfect race for me.” Henderson, who rides for the U.S. based Health Net-Maxxis team when he’s not mixing it up on the track, said he to gambled with gear choice, trying to ride the fence between power and speed.
“I knew Alex was fast — and he was on a huge gear,” recalled Henderson. “He was banking on a bunch sprint, whereas I put on a gear where I thought maybe I could attack a little bit and maybe sprint on it too. But if it came down to a pure sprint I knew I was going to be in trouble.”
Henderson still managed to grab the silver, while Belgian Matthew Gilmore was third.
Coming up Sunday afternoon
There’s sure to be a surprise winner in the men’s match sprint on Sunday’s final session of racing. That’s because defending champion and hot favorite Theo Bos of the Netherlands, after setting a stunning time of 10.192 seconds for the flying-start 200 meters qualifying round, lost in the quarterfinals Saturday to Aussie phenom Jobie Dajka. Dajka faces Germany’s René Wolff in the semifinals, while the exciting young French pair, Mickaël Bourgain and Grégory Baugé, contest the other semi.
The again sold-out stadium hosts three other finals on Sunday. The 50km Madison features the U.S. team of Colby Pearce and Marty Nothstein; the women’s keirin has American Jennie Reed; and the women’s 10km scratch race gives Russian veteran Olga Slyusareva her last chance of glory.
Men's Scratch Race 15 km
1. Alex Rasmussen (Den)
2. Greg Henderson (Nzl)
3. Matthew Gilmore (Bel)
4. Mark Cavendish (GB)
5. Franco Marvulli (Sui)
6. Andreas Muller (Ger)
7. Wim Stroetinga (Ned)
8. Rafal Ratajczyk (Pol)
9. Vasyl Yakovlev (Ukr)
10. Elexey Shmidt (Rus)
11. Walter Perez (Arg)
12. Angelo Ciccone (Ita)
13. Ioannis Tamouridis (Gre)
14. Jérôme Neuville (Fra)
15. Ilya Chernyshov (Kaz)
16. Siarhei Daubniuk (Blr)
17. Miles Olman (Aus)
18. King Wai Cheung (Hkg)
19. Jame Carney (USA)
Team Pursuit (4000m)
Gold medal round
Great Britain 4 mins, 5.619 secs (Ed Clancyn, Steven Cumming, Paul
Manning, Christopher Newton)
beats Netherlands 4:09.971 (Levi Heimans, Jens Mouris,
Peter Schep, Niki Terpstra)
Bronze medal round
Australia 4:07.717 (Matthew Goss, Ashley Hutchinson, Mark Jamieson,
Stephen Wooldridge) beats New Zealand 4:08.661
(Allen Jason, Greg Henderson, Peter Latham, Marc Ryan)
Jobie Dajka (AUS) beats Theo Bos (NED)
Mickael Bourgain (FRA) beats Craig Mclean (GBR)
Gregory Bauge (FRA) beats Ross Edgar (GBR)
Rene Wolff (GER) beats Teun Mulder (NED)
Gold medal round
Victoria Pendleton (AUS) beats Tamilia Abassova (RUS)
Bronze medal round
Anna Meares (AUS) beats Kerrie Meares (AUS) 2-1
Women's Individual Pursuit
Gold medal round
Katie Mactier (AUS) 3:38.720 beats Katherine Bates (AUS)
Bronze medal round
Karin Thürig (SUI) 3:45.490 beats Elena Tchalykh (RUS)
5. Olga Slyusareva (RUS) 3:43.307
6. Emma Davies (GBR) 3:44.281
7. Adrie Visser (NED) 3:48.342
8. Verena Joos (GER) 3:48.886
9. Erin Mirabella (USA) 3:49.157
10. Marlijn Binnendijk (NED) 3:51.952