By Jason Sumner, VeloNews associate editor
In the moments after a tacitly perfect run to Olympic glory in the Madison, Aussie Graeme Brown could barely stand. Minutes earlier he and teammate Stuart O’Grady had given Australia its fifth gold medal of these Athens Olympics, but now Brown needed help getting his shoes off.
“It was the most painful race I’ve ever ridden,” said Brown. “I never been in so much pain in my life.”
Clearly the pain was worth it, though. Brown and O’Grady started fast, gaining a lap along with the German duo of Robert Bartko and Guido Fulst. From there the Aussies picked their spots wisely, winning the fourth sprint and taking second in final four.
“I told the coaches If I came out of the Tour with good form I’d give it a shot,” said O’Grady, who didn’t officially get named to the Australian Madison team until two weeks ago. “I didn’t want to just take someone’s place and just ride around. If I was coming here I was coming to win.”
The Aussies finished the 200-lap race with 22 points. Switzerland took the silver medal with 15 points, while Great Britain capped a solid week on the track with bronze.
The gold was Brown’s second of the Games. He was also part of the Australia’s team pursuit squad that broke the world record on its way to another trip to the top of the podium.
All told seven teams would gain a lap on the field in a race where the tandem who covers the greatest distance and accrues the most points wins. Besides the three medal-winning teams, Ukraine, Spain, New Zealand and Germany all managed to lap the field once.
The Brits run to bronze was especially remarkable considering that Rob Hayles crashed hard with 92 laps to go. Hayles would jump back in, and along with individual pursuit gold medalist Bradley Wiggins, they gained back a lap with 23 to go.
“That was a big challenge for us to get on the podium,” said Hayles, who was bumped and bruised but nothing more. “This was a high-level race.”
With the Aussies way out in front, the only drama left late in the race was the battle for silver. The Swiss and Brits were tied at 10 when bell rang for the final lap, but Franco Marvulli had the most left in his tank, giving the Swiss their third straight sprint win and the silver medal.
“In the beginning we did not really contest the sprints,” said Marvulli. “We waited a little bit and then decided it was just best to sprint for the points instead of going for another lap.”
The Aussies strategy was the best of all, though. Brown and O’Grady scored points on seven of the 10 sprints, taking the seven-point win.
“I’ve had big wins,” said O’Grady, who scored his first World Cup win earlier in the summer. “But this is different. This is above everything.”
With the track racing done, the mountain bikers take over the cycling mantle here in Athens. The world’s cross-country elite will have one last day of training on Thursday. Then it’s the women’s cross-country on Friday at 11 a.m. local, followed by the men a day later at the same time.Madison (final):
1. Australia (Graeme Brown, Stuart O’Grady) 22 pts
2. Switzerland (Franco Marvulli, Bruno Risi) 15
3. Grande-Bretagne (Rob Hayles, Bradley Wiggins) 12
4. Germany (Robert Bartko, Guido Fulst)9
5. Ukraine (Volodymyr Rybin, Vasyl Yakovlev)9
6. Spain (Miquel Alzamora, Joan Llaneras) 7
7. New Zealand (Greg Henderson, Hayden Roulston)2
8. Austria (Roland Garber, Franz Stocher)8
9. Argentina (Juan Esteban Curuchet, Walter Perez)5
10. Uruguay (Tomas Margalef, Milton Wynants)3
11. Belgium (Matthew Gilmore, Iljo Keisse) 3
12. Kazakhstan (Ilya Chernyshov, Yuriy Yuda) 2
13. Czech Republic (Milan Kadlec, Petr Lazar) 2
14. Netherlands (Robert Slippens, Danny Stam) 2
15. Slovakia (Martin Liska, Jozef Zabka) 5
16. Colombia (Leonardo Duque, Jose Rodolfo Serpa)3
17. Russia (Oleg Grishkin, Alexey Shmidt)1
France (Matthieu Ladagnous, Jérôme Neuville) abandon