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By Connie Carpenter
Saturday Afternoon – It was drizzling in Oz this morning. That’s okay, because the track is covered making us feel less guilty about being inside.
The scratch race has no consequences for the Olympics but it’s a popular event and full of surprises. Travis Meyer squeaked through in his heat. We remember him from his days at Junior Worlds when he won three world track titles in a 10 hour time span. His brother Cam took the bronze last night in the points. A poignant moment for me yesterday came when a struggling Magnus Bäckstedt (bronchial infection) was working with Travis to regain the group, proof that the track is a great equalizer across both ages and continents.
Surprising results include the failure of T-Mobile’s Mark Cavendish to get through his heat in the Scratch race when he missed the break. ItS been a stressful week for T-Mobile riders though, can’t blame him for perhaps feeling a bit flat.
Evening at the track and lady sprinters have put the pedal to the medal – with Anna Meares taking Gold for Australia in the 500 meter sprint. Following that, the Team pursuiters have just displayed their wares. Britain rides the pursuit almost casually, with such precision and so much horsepower that they make riding a 4:03 pursuit appear to be, well, almost easy.
The stands are nearly full tonight, and the Keirin semi-final races are in full swing. Only six racers will be in the final. The Keirin originated in Japan but made its debut in the Olympics only seven years ago at the Sydney Olympic Games. I remember visiting the Keirin school outside Tokyo where athletes trained almost like Sumo wrestlers and where the gods of Keirin made huge salaries largely due to the fact that the public bets on the racers as they would on horses.
The Keirin made its way into the Olympics fairly recently and provides the sprinters with another venue. Paced up to speed, the group then has two and one-half laps to let it rip and rip it they do.
These gents are beasts that defy description or comparison.
Have you seen Theo Bos? Built like a Hummer, he explodes out of the blocks like a Ferrari. You can almost hear the hum of his engine. Vroom.
In the final, the game is on and everyone riding at the front is looking back – for the Boss. When they focus on the front, the World Champ Chris Hoy puts the hammer down and crushes. New champ.
The women’s points race is fast, averaging almost 50kph! In the final laps, world champ Kathy Bates takes off but the Chinese put on a good chase and reel her in. The Chinese rider Li takes the final sprint and with it, the race. But wait, she’s relegated and the Italian gets the gold.
Lots of riders get “relegated” in track, in this case she lost her points in the final sprint and ended second overall with ten points. American Becky Quinn was in there but just missed the podium in fourth. Sarah Hammer put up a good fight, noting that in her first World Cup points race she lapped the field twice en route to winning. Now that she’s a known entity, it’s more difficult to get away, but she satisfied herself with a good effort in a fast race.
There are many ways to hurt yourself in cycling. One is when you crash, another is when you reach your physical limits. Tonight we saw vivid displays of both, first a spectacular crash in the women’s team sprint event when German rider Dana Glöss hit the deck at full speed when it appeared that her fork was sheered off at the crown. Glöss lay motionless for some time but then miraculously walked away.
In the final event of the night, men’s 60 lap Scratch race, Americans Mike Friedman (Team Slipstream) and Bobby Lea (USA) are in the Final. 34 laps to go, Lea and ‘takes a lap’ but later when the speed goes to the next level, he drops off the pace visibly suffering and loses his lap. Like I said, there are many ways to suffer in cycling.
Amazingly, the body has no memory for pain. It’s part of why we allow ourselves to suffer repeatedly – and inexplicably, to enjoy it.
And the beat goes on.