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By Jason Sumner, VeloNews Associate Editor
As she lay on the bed in the medical tent overcome by exhaustion, Belem Guerrero said she’d never been so tired in her life. The blistering heat of the midday Mexico sun and the sizzling pace of the women’s points race had taken their toll. But it was a price Guerrero would gladly pay again, as the reward was a gold medal earned in front of her home-country fans on the final day of track World Cup No. 1 in Monterrey, Mexico.
Guerrero nipped China’s Limei Yang 16 points to 13 in a race that wasn’t decided until the last of the 75 laps around the 333-meter concrete Nuevo Leon Velodromo on Sunday.
“The last kilometer was eternal,” said Guerrero to the throng of press gathered at the post-race news conference. “This race will make people take notice of me.”
Indeed, Guerrero has been racing in the growing shadow of countrywoman Nancy Contreras ever since last year’s world championships when Contreras took home gold in the 500-meter time trial. But Contreras settled for silver in her specialty here in Mexico, while Guerrero’s effort queued up the Mexican national anthem.
“The fans here really motivated me,” added Guerrero, who also won bronze in the scratch race on Saturday. “I’m so proud to have succeeded for them.”
China’s Puxiang Zheng grabbed the bronze points race medal, with America’s Erin Mirabella in fourth, one spot short of what would have been her third podium appearance in Monterrey.
The day’s other major highlight came courtesy of track racing’s current megastar, Arnaud Tournant. The French triple world champion (kilo, sprint, Olympic sprint) crushed the field in the kilometer time trial in Mexico, posting a winning time of 1:02.362, nearly two seconds quicker than second-place finisher José Escuredo of Spain (1:04.141). Poland’s Grzegorz Krejner was third (1:04.258), while American Adam Duvendeck finished a disappointing ninth (1:06.161).
In the men’s match sprint, Germany ruled the day, taking the gold (Rene Wollf) and bronze (Matthias John). Cuba’s Julio Herrera grabbed silver, with American Jeff LaBauve fourth. Both final round match-ups were decided in the minimum of two heats in the best-of-three format.
The best sprint battle came in the women’s gold medal match, where Belarus’ Natalia Markaunichenka took the third and deciding heat over Russia’s Svetlana Grankovskaia, who is the current world sprint champion. All three heats were nail-biting close, and a photo was required to sort out the decider.
In the bronze medal round of the sprint it was a pair of Americans — Tanya Lindenmuth and Tammy Thomas — matched up. Thomas won two straight, to take team honors.
“It’s no fun to race against teammates,” Thomas said, “but at least we were racing for a medal.”
In the Madison, a supreme effort by the duo of Miguel Alzamora and Juan Llaneras earned Spain its second gold medal of the World Cup. The pair lapped second-place finisher Argentina once and the rest of the field at least twice. Switzerland earned the most points with 18, but was lapped twice and settled for third. Americans Colby Pearce and Jame Carney were seventh, three laps down.
The World Cup circuit now moves to the other side of the world for its next stop, Race No. 2 in Sydney, Australia, May 10-12.
Following the last of the event awards ceremonies, the fully-uniformed American squad headed up towards the podium for what they thought was to be the presentation of the top-team award. But some last minute math by the organizers revealed Germany had in fact won the team title. Most of its riders had already left the facility, though, so the team’s coaches and staff were left to accept the award.
The Germans led the medal count with five, while the U.S. and Spain each won four.
UCI TRACK WORLD CUP NO. 1; Monterrey, Mexico; April 19-21
Men; Kilometer time trial; 1. Arnaud Tournant, France, 1:02.362; 2. Jose Escuredo, Spain, 1:04.141; 3. Grzegorz Krejner, Poland, 1:04.258; 4. Jamie Staff, Great Britain, 1:04.603; 5. Wilson Meneses, Colombia, 1:05.599; Also; 9. Adam Duvendeck, USA, 1:06.161; 13. Mario Sanchez, Mexico, 1:08.632
Madison; 1. Spain (Miguel Alzamora, Juan Llaneras); 2. Argentina; 3. Switzerland; 4. Netherlands; 5. South Africa; Also; 7. USA (Jamie Carney, Colby Pearce); 10. Mexico
Match sprint; 1. René Wollf, Germany; 2. Julio Herrera, Cuba; 3. Matthias John, Germany; 4. Jeff LaBauve, USAWomen; Match sprint; 1. Natalia Markaunichenka, Belarus; 2. Svetlana Grankovskaia, Russia; 3. Tammy Thomas, USA; 4. Tanya Lindenmuth, USA; 5. Katrin Meinke, Germany; Also; 6. Lori Ann Muenzer, Canada; 10. Nancy Contreras, Mexico
Points race; 1. Belem Guerrero, Mexico, 16 points; 2. Limei Yang, China, 13; 3. Puxiang Zheng, China, 13; 4. Erin Mirabella, USA, 13; 5. Natalia Karimova, Russia, 12; Also; 9. Mandy Poitras, Canada, 7; 13. Erin Carter, Canada, 2; 19. Monica Huerta, Mexico, 0
Final medal count; 1. Germany, 5 (1 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze); 2. Spain, 4 (2 gold, 2 silver); 3. USA, 4 (1 gold, 1 silver, 2 bronze); 4. Belarus, 3 (3 gold); 5. Great Britain, 3 (2 gold, 1 silver); 6. Mexico, 3 (1 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze); 7. Switzerland, 3 (1 gold, 2 bronze); 8. Cuba, 2 (1 gold, 1 silver); 9. Argentina, 2 (1 silver, 1 bronze); 10. China, 2 (1 silver, 1 bronze)