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Wiggins smokes pursuit qualifier
Stefan Nimke spent a long and nerve-wracking spell in the “hot seat” Wednesday night as the 25-year-old German set an early standard in the men’s kilometer time trial at the 2003 world track championships in Stuttgart.
Pounding out an impressive personal best of 1:01:225, Nimke thought that perhaps he stood a chance of making the podium “but not a gold medal with a field like this here, no.”
But despite his early start and a field of serious contenders – including defending world champion Chris Hoy, three-time world champion Shane Kelly and the feared Frenchman Arnaud Tournant, the first man to ever break the one-minute barrier in the event and four-time world champion himself– Nimke’s time stood as the evening’s best, much to the delight of a partisan home crowd attending the first night of competition in Stuttgart.
“You can’t imagine what it is like to sit there and watch guys like Shane at the starting blocks and then see them flying down the track,” Nimke said.
But none was able to meet Nimke’s mark and when Hoy hit the start as the last rider of the evening, the crowd was beginning to sense that Germany would score its first track gold in three years. Hoy charged out of the blocks, but his first time check put him six-tenths of a second behind Nimke’s. At each mark, of the three-and-a-half laps it takes to cover a kilometer on this 285 wooden indoor velodrome, Nimke – and the crowd – became increasingly confident.
Indeed, the 2002 world champion could only muster the day’s fourth-best time, conceding silver and bronze to Kelly and Tournant. Both men seemed almost as pleased with the outcome as Nimke. After a recent lay-off because of injury, Tournant gave his Olympic hopes a boost with the bronze. American Christian Stahl finished 19th in 1:04.810.
Hoy was gracious in defeat and rode up to Nimke to congratulate him. “Impressive ride, mate,” he told the German.
“I think if anything it gives me more motivation,” Hoy told reporters. “You get a lot more hungry when you’re the contender for a title. When you’re the champion you’ve got all these guys trying to be number one.
“I think it was the ideal scenario for Nimke. It’s his home track, and when you’re racing at this level it’s small details like that that can count.”
“For me it was a mixed bag,” Hoy later told VeloNews. “It was, after all, my personal best time, but I can surely say that it wasn’t my personal best ride.”
Hoy said that the unusual track length made it more difficult to measure his progress.
“No excuse, but on a 250, I can usually tell within a tenth-of-a-second, how I am doing, just by my cadence, where I am and how I am feeling,” he said. “Here it’s a little different, but it is so for most of us here… but this also a very fast track.”
Nimke, who usually trains on concrete 250-meter track echoed both sentiments.
“It’s not much of a home advantage – other than the crowd, of course,” Nimke said. “My home track is 250, as well and the concrete is a much slower surface, so I couldn’t really tell how I was doing.”
Nimke said he simply gritted his teeth, worked as hard as he could and “thought about the important things in my life.”
“On the first lap, I thought about my girlfriend,” he said with a smile, “then for the rest of the time, I thought about our (one-year-old) daughter. This is for her.”
Christian Stahl, the sole American contesting the event finished 19th with a 1:04.810.
“And that’s my personal best, too,” Stahl said. “I’ve come close with a 1:05.3, but those were at altitude. This is a sea-level track, so I am very pleased.”
Stahl, a bronze medalist as a junior, is coming off of a one-year layoff, “just to take some time off from the sport. I’m happy to be back at it now.”
The Australian Kelly, a former three-time world champion in the event who has also claimed two silver medals from the world championships, was the first rider to come close to Nimke’s time in 1:01.356.
Having claimed the bronze medal last year behind Tournant and Hoy, the 31-year-old Aussie admitted he was also hoping for gold in next year’s Olympics.
“I got up to third last year, and I’m second this year, so hopefully I’ll keep progressing in the same direction in the next year,” said Kelly, who admitted he knew Nimke’s time would be hard to beat. “When I seen that, I thought, ‘Shit, that’s fast.’”
Earlier Wednesday, Britain’s Bradley Wiggins qualified fastest in his bid for an individual pursuit gold medal. The 23-year-old, who rides for the same French Fdjeux.com team as Australia’s reigning pursuit champion, Brad McGee, clocked a blistering 4:17.34, hitting speeds of nearly 56kph during his 14 laps of the 285-meter track.
In second place was Australian Luke Roberts, who came second behind McGee last year to win the silver medal, in a time of 4:21.822.
A first round of four heats will be held Thursday night. The fastest two winners will dispute the gold medal while the next two fastest riders will dispute the bronze.
Kilometer time trial results:
1. Stefan Nimke (G), 1:01.225
2. Shane Kelly (Aus) 1:01.356
3. Arnaud Tournant (F) 1:01.644
4. Chris Hoy (GB) 1:01.707
5. Ben Kersten (Aus) 1:02.007
6. Theo Bos (Ned) 1:02.079
7. Jamie Staff (GB) 1:02.128
8. Soren Lausberg (G) 1:02.198
9. Jason Queally (GB) 1:02.387
10. Jose Antonio Villanueva (Sp) 1:02.484
11. Ahmed Lopez (Cub) 1:02.598
12. Wilson Meneses (Col) 1:02.628
13. Mickael Bourgain (F) 1:02.697
14. Matthieu Mandard (F) 1:02.788
15. Teun Mulder (Ned) 1:03.045
16. Andriy Vynokurov (Ukr) 1:03.862
17. Damian Zielinski (Pol) 1:04.116
18. Takahiro Arai (Jpn) 1:04.331
19. Christian Stahl (USA) 1:04.810
20. Jan Lepka (Slo) 1:05.138
21. Athanasios Mantzourannis (Gre) 1:05.373
22. Jonathan Marin (Col) 1:05.965
Individual pursuit qualifying
Yauheni Sobal (Blr), 4:40.26, beat Gregory Devaud (Swi), 4:40.55
Carlos Castano Panadero (Sp), 4:32.65, beat Jaroslaw Rebiewski (Pol), 4:34.05
Alexey Markov (Rus), 4:26.22, beat Brett Lancaster (Aus), 4:27.31
Daniel Becke (G), 4:25.08, beat Philippe Gaumont (F,) 4:27.39
Jens Mouris (Ned), 4:30.12, beat Ioanni Tamouridis (Gre) 4:38.03
Robert Bartko (G), 4:25.98, beat Vasili Kiryienka (Blr), 4:26.85
Paul Manning (GB), 4:22.49, beat Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu), 4:31.40
Mark Jamieson (Aus), 4:26.12, beat Stefano Marenco (It), 4:37.31
Sergi Escobar Roure (Sp), 4:21.941, beat Hayden Godfrey (NZ), 4:32.00
Bradley Wiggins (GB), 4:17.34, beat Jerome Neuville (F), 4:29.12
Luke Roberts (Aus), 4:21.82, beat Volodymyr Dyudya (Ukr), 4:30.962
1. Bradley Wiggins (GB)
2. Luke Roberts (Aus)
3. Sergi Escobar Roure (Sp)
4. Paul Manning (GB)
5. Daniel Becke (G)
6. Robert Bartko (G)
7. Mark Jamieson (Aus)
8. Alexey Markov (Rus)
1st round (Thursday)
Paul Manning (GB)
Daniel Becke (G)
Sergi Escobar Roure (Sp)
Robert Bartko (G)
Luke Roberts (Aus)
Mark Jamieson (Aus)
Bradley Wiggins (GB)
Alexey Markov (Rus)