By Connie Carpenter
Editor’s Note: – Connie Carpenter is at the UCI World Cup in Sydney, Australia, this week, accompanying her son, 2007 world junior time trial champion Taylor Phinney, as he enters his first elite level track competition. The 1984 Olympic gold medalist has agreed to send us reports throughout the event.
Friday Morning – All the buzz is in the infield as the Track World Cup got under way on Friday morning. The track is outside Sydney, further than the Olympic Park complex – in a quiet zone known as Bass Hill.
It’s familiar, but oh so strange, to be here in my first trip to Oz. Everyone is rolling. At noon, we counted 60 riders on the rollers while the seemingly endless heats (18 in all) of women’s pursuits rolled onward. I say endless because the competition is only three hours old and it’s already 30 minutes behind schedule. No fault of the organizers only that there are quite a few more riders than expected.
It’s an Olympic year so the stakes are higher and every point counts in these world cup races. There are over 20 US riders here, many with professional teams and only six listed officially with the US Team.
Eagerly awaiting Sarah Hammer’s ride, I watch a steady onslaught of sub 3:40 efforts. But knowing that she’s the world record holder, the world champion, and definitely the rider to mark – having a bit of trouble at the start, she has her coach realign the bike. Once off, she pops a 1:15 over the first kilometer. That’s well of the mark and Hammer has to fight her way back. The other rider on the track, Great Britain’s Wendy Houvenaghel, takes her by less than a tenth and with it the fourth slot. (Only four riders qualify for the medal rounds). What happened to the Champ? Coming back from a summer back injury, her form is still on the rise. The gear felt simply too big today and though she fought back, it wasn’t enough.
It’s a fast track here in Sydney. Why? As compared to the track in L.A. which is climate controlled, this one is more open to the environment and it is nearly summer here. A hot track is a faster track, because the air is less dense. That means less resistance and more speed. However today, race day is much slower than previous training days.
Taylor’s not the only junior from the world championships in Aguascalientes who’s here. Aussie world champs Josephine Tomic and Travis Meyer are also here, but not riding the pursuit.
Prior to his ride, Taylor let me know that he was not as nervous as I appeared to be. Although I felt relaxed to begin with, I started to feel antsy.
There are Lots of helping hands here – mechanics, coaches, soigneurs, Taylor’s sister Kelsey and even a surprise visit by his Boulder-based coach Neal Henderson, who was flying through to Perth today and took a cab to the track in order to see his young protégé ride.
Taylor rode in the second pairing, against Vladimir Tuychiev (Uzbekistan). Still new to pursuiting, Taylor’s goal was to break 4:30, as his training times suggested that even a 4:25 might be possible. Having only two pursuits in competition to his credit, he wanted to test himself and went out flying fast, opening with a 1:07 kilometer – about three seconds faster than schedule.
When the announcer remarked that his 3k time put him 3 seconds faster than the winner of the junior worlds (his time 3:20, the winner in Aguascalientes 3:23) – and with the Uzbek rider in sight – Taylor did what he could to hold on and finish with a 1:08 over the last kilometer and a final time of 4:28.76. A PR by six seconds.
Disappointed at first, as he’d hoped for a better time, Taylor is realizing that his time was good, if not great, as rider after rider rolls in slower than him.
Taylor possesses a beginner’s mind. He’s not afraid to visualize success. He’s not afraid to go for the top.
Friday Evening – The buzz in the infield is not diminished, and even more buzz as the stands start to fill. The points race – full throttle and more!
The Points race brings the real buzz – 24 qualifiers, 120 laps (30km) – and the race came right down to the last lap. The early breakaway, led by savvy young Cameron Meyer (Toshiba), made the race thrilling for Aussie fans but the hard charging New Zealander Greg Henderson and the more experienced Spaniard, Toni Tauler Llull (Illes Balears) took a lap and gained 20 points early. But it was the Kiwi who kept pressing, and scavenging points, scoring in 5 of the 12 sprints.
Cameron Meyer, 19, is a triple junior world champion from 2006. No stranger to the world stage, Meyer won a World Cup points race last winter in Los Angeles. Brother Travis took three golds last summer, matching older brother and also racing in Sydney (though failing to qualify for the final).
The womens Scratch Race final (40 laps, 10 km)also brought the crowd to its feet, Australian Belinda Goss made her bid coming into the final lap, but it was the world champion Yumari Gonzalez Valdvieso that came around for the win. Americans in the final – I Becky Quinn took sixth in the final lap free-for-all. Former triathlete Christen King finished fifteenth after winning her heat on a breakaway earlier in the day.
The big boys took the track for the finals of the Team Sprint. This event is full speed from the start with each of three sprinters taking a lap – and the winner was the Aussie Toshiba team with a time of 44.639 for 750 meters, or 60.5 km per hour. I’d never seen this event before today, and it’s wild. Three massive guys blast from the start blocks, the first pulls off after the first lap and two are left thrashing wildly full gas. As the second rider pulls off, the final rider comes through and they battle to the line.
Pursuiters and points racers, are like agile antelope, while these guys are cheetah-fast but beefy and beastly, with no comparison in the animal world.
In the lull between races I find myself saying ‘hi’ to old friends. Most names escape me but their faces are etched. Glancing over at the Russian ‘cabin’ area makes me wonder if one of the managers isn’t a kilo world champ from the ‘day.’ How about the Belgian I just know we’ve known each other in a past life. And in the post-modern future, there’s my former neighbor Tatjana Guderzo from the tiny town of Marostica, Italy, who is also here racing the women’s pursuit.
Hanging out for the final event, the men’s individual pursuit – finds the infield almost empty and everyone packing up their gear and putting it out to their ‘container’ in a row of containers. The crowd lingers in anticipation of the showdown between the Ukrainian Dyudya and the Australian Thuaux who got his start in cycling when looking to improve his fitness for his first sport, sailing. The Ukraine however showed took it out of the Aussie lap after lap and rode to an ‘easy victory’ in 4:25.485.
That’s a wrap.