By John Wilcockson
Colby Pearce has a great chance to set the standard for the home country when the 2005 UCI World Track Championships get underway Thursday in the ADT Event Center, Carson, California. Pearce, 32, has had a successful World Cup season, with second and third places in the points race at two rounds of the competition. His chance to claim a world’s medal comes Thursday evening.
The final of the men 40km points race is the likely highlight of this opening session of the March 24-27 track world’s, and Pearce is going to need all the vocal support the home crowd can muster. Earning a medal will be a tough proposition in an event that has attracted most of the top names in endurance track racing.
Besides Pearce, the main rider to watch is the 2004 Olympic points champion Mikhail Ignatiev of Russia, who’s only 19 and potentially his country’s best-ever all-around cyclist, perhaps even better than still-in-the-saddle Viatcheslav Ekimov. Ignatiev is an exciting rider to watch, always on the look out to gain laps.
The chief opposition should come from the ever-aggressive Chris Newton of Great Britain; six-day stars Rob Slippens of the Netherlands and the Germans Robert Bartko and Guido Fulst; along with points race specialists Juan Curuchet of Argentina, Petr Lazar of the Czech Republic, Joan Llaneres of Spain, Ionnis Tamouridis of Greece, Greg Henderson of New Zealand and Volodymyr Rybin of Ukraine.
The other finals on Thursday are the women’s 500-meter time trial and men’s team sprint. The U.S. is represented in the time trial by Becky Conzelman from Cincinnati, but does not have a sprint team
Anna Meares, Australia’s Olympic champion and world record holder in the 500-meter TT, is not scheduled to compete in this event, instead focusing her efforts on the women’s sprint (Friday qualifying, Saturday finals) and keirin (Sunday). This leaves the TT more open, with the favorite status going to former world champion Natalia Tsylinskaya of Belarus. Also in with a medal chance are Victoria Pendleton of Great Britain, Elisa Frisoni of Italy, Guo Jang of China, and the North American pair, Nancy Contreras of Mexico and Olympic sprint champion Lori-Ann Muenzer of Canada.
As for the team sprint, this event gives French sprint coaches Daniel Morelon and Gérard Quintyn their best chance of a title in their final world championships. The two coaches are retiring after four decades as riders or officials with the French national track squad. Their team for Thursday night is Grégory Baugé, Mickaël Bourgain and Arnaud Tournant — who has anchored previous French sprint teams to five world titles.
The chief opposition should come from the ultra-strong British trio of Craig McLean, Chris Hoy and Jason Queally. Also a candidate for the GB team is Jamie Staff, who lives in Southern California and trains at the ADT velodrome. Other medal hopefuls are the Olympic champion German sprint team and Greece.
Racing starts at the world’s with the qualifying rounds of the men’s points race Thursday from 10 to 10:50 a.m., while the main session open at 7 p.m.
Look for frequent reports throughout the world track championships from VeloNews’s John Wilcockson and Jason Sumner. A full race schedule is available at USA Cycling’s Web site.).