By Fred Dreier
Scott Sunderland’s ride of a lifetime in the men’s 1000 meter time trial netted the young Australian his first-ever World Cup gold medal, and smashed his existing personal best time by nearly one second.
The effort also sent the hulking 20-year-old back to the Australian team pits with a trash can in-tow. Sunderland, whose massive legs and enormous neck appear better suited for a football game than a bike race, spent the next 15 minutes buckled over, losing his lunch after his winning ride.
“It’s my first victory — I’ve had a third and a couple of fourths tonight which makes it special,” said Sunderland, a native of Perth. “It’s also my first World Cup in the kilo.”
Sunderland grabbed his win ahead of Ukrainian Yevgen Bolibrukh and Wen Hao Li of the People’s Republic of China. But noticeably absent were reigning world champion Chris Hoy of Great Britain and Frenchman Françoise Pervis, winner of the December 5 World Cup kilo in Beijing, China.
Those absences didn’t detract from Sunderland’s victory, a win for man whose bread-and-butter events are the keirin and sprint races. It is unquestionable that on any other national team, the youngster would be a star. But the Australian National and Australia’s Team Toshiba are stacked with sprinting talent, including veterans Ryan Bayley, Daniel Ellis, Ben Kersten, Mark French, Shane Kelly and Shane Perkins. Sunderland has had to expand his repertoire of events to be competitive. That has meant tackling the 1000 meters, traditionally a race that favors riders with a bit more endurance.
“He is becoming an endurance sprinter — he is quite powerful but not as powerful as the traditional sprinters,” said Australia’s national coach Martin Barras. “For him the whole question of power is where it is at. But you have to be patient. There is an aspect of experience that is very important. You don’t want to rush his physical development.”
Sunderland seems to be on board with the program set out by his national squad. The 20-year-old has raced on the track since he was 11, and holds modest ambitions to qualify for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, however he admitted the likelihood of earning a spot was slim.
“It’s a bit of a long shot — we have so many good riders in Australia,” Sunderland said. “I’m looking more toward London. If they don’t pick me, I’ll just give this year a crack and see what happens.”
Down Under in L.A.
The night proved fruitful for Sunderland’s compatriots — Australian men and women netted a total of four medals on the night. The men’s team pursuit squad of Jack Bobridge, Brad McGee, Mark Jamieson and Peter Dawson qualified second behind the Danish squad of Casper Jorgensen, Jens-Erik Madsen, Michael Morkov and Alex Rasmussen in the early session. But the Aussies smashed the Danes by more than three seconds for the win in the finals, with the Ukrainian team finishing third.
Although they qualified with the second-fastest time, Australia’s women’s pairing of Kaarle McCulloch and Kerrie Mears grabbed the bronze in the women’s team sprint, finishing just off the pace of the powerhouse Netherlands team of Yvonne Hijgenaar and Willy Kanis. France’s duo of Sandie Clair and Virginie Cueff picked up the silver.
Bayley, the reigning Olympic champion in the sprint and keirin, grabbed bronze in the keirin behind French strongman Arnaud Tournant and second-place Christos Volikakis of Greece.
World Cup leader Lisandrda Guerra Rodriguez of Cuba continued her domination of the women’s 500-meter time trial, beating Willy Kanis of the Netherlands by half a second. Rodriguez’ 33.96 was only 0.11 seconds off the world record in the event held by Australia’s Anna Meares.
American Rebecca Quinn (South Bay Wheelmen) said goodbye to her World Cup leader’s jersey in the points race. Quinn finished a distant 7th place with seven points.
“I didn’t deserve to hang onto it — initially I got some points but I let some good wheels go,” Quinn said. “It was a mental lapse. I got back into it at the end, but you have to be fully focused for the entire 80 laps.”
Jarmila Machacova of the Czech Republic took the win with 27 points ahead of Min Hye Lee of Hong Kong and Li Yan of the People’s Republic of China. Machacova now takes over the jersey as the World Cup leader.
Reigning world champion Kam-po Wong of Hong Kong took his first World Cup victory of the season in the mens’ scratch race. Americans Colby Pearce and Bobby Lea finished 14th and 17th, respectively.
2008 Los Angeles UCI Track World Cup
LDT Events Center Velodrome, Carson, California
Women’s 500-meter time trial
1. Lisandra Guerra Rodriguez (Cub), 0:33.96
2. Willy Kanis (Nl), 0:34.49
3. Simona Krupeckaite (Ltu), 0:34.49
4. Jinjie Gong (Chn), 0:34.88; 5. Lulu Zheng (Chn), 0:35.11
Men’s team pursuit
1. Australia (Jack Bobridge, Brad McGee, Mark Jamieson, Peter Dawson), 4:06.17
2. Denmark (Casper Jorgensen, Alex Rasmussen, Michael Morkov, Jens-Erik Madsen), 4:09.38
3. Ukraine (Lyubomyr Polatayko, Vitaliy Shchedov, Vitaliy Popkov, Maksym Polischyuk), 4:05.77
4. The Netherlands (Levi Heimans, Wim Stroetinga, Geert-Jan Jonkman, Jenning Huizenga), 4:09.91
Women’s points race
1. Jarmila Machacova (Cz), 27 points
2. Min Hye Lee (HK), 23
3. Li Yan (Chn), 12
4. Katherine Bates (Aus), Team High Road, 9
5. Leire Olaberria (Sp), Cespa-Euskadi, 8
7. Rebecca Quinn (USA), South Bay Wheelmen, 7
14. Lauren Franges (USA), 1
1. Arnaud Tournant (F), Cofidis
2. Christos Volikakis (Gr)
3. Ryan Bayley (Aus), Team Toshiba
4. Teun Mulder (Nl)
5. François Pervis (F)
1. Scott Sunderland (Aus), Team Toshiba, 1:02.70
2. Yevgen Bolibrukh (Ukr), 1:03.11
3. Wen Hao Li (Chn), 1:04.01
4. Kamil Kuczynski (Pl), 1:04.74
5. Tomas Babek (Cz), 1:05.13
Women’s team sprint
1. Netherlands (Yvonne Hijgenaar, Willy Kanis), 34.03
2. France (Sandie Clair, Virginie Cueff), 34.77
3. Australia (Kaarle McCulloch, Kerrie Meares), 34.79
4. Germany (Jane Gerisch, Dana Gloss), 35.12
1. Kam-po Wong (HK)
2. Vasili Kiryienka (Blr)
3. Wim Stroetinga (Nl)
4. Robert Hayles (GB); 5. Roger Kluge (G)
14. Colby Pearce (USA), Slipstream-Chipotle
17. Bobby Lea (USA)