Olympics

Gregory Bauge chasing Olympic gold in match sprint at 2012 London Games

The French three-time world champion had to settle for silver in the team sprint in London

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LONDON (AFP) — French track cycling great Grégory Baugé has every right to feel aggrieved, but he intends to take his anger out on his rivals when the battle for a coveted Olympic sprint gold begins Saturday.

Baugé, three times a world champion in the sprint, had to settle for silver in the team sprint on the opening day of the Olympic track program Thursday as Britain raised the bar to defend its title from Beijing.

France clocked its fastest-ever time in the final of the three-lap power event, but in the end it was not enough as Chris Hoy completed his team’s effort in a world record of 0:42.600.

On Saturday, Baugé will aim to make amends when the individual-sprint tournament kicks off with a timed 200-meter flying lap.

Regarded as the most prestigious event in the sport’s current Olympic schedule, the individual or match sprint is spread over three days with riders facing off in pairs through various rounds and repechages before getting anywhere near the final.

In Beijing, Hoy won the gold ahead of British teammate Jason Kenny, but since then Baugé has been virtually unstoppable at the world level.

“For me, the individual sprint will be a totally different ballgame,” he said as he struggled to digest France’s defeat by Britain.

The Frenchman’s coach is Florian Rousseau, who was stunned in the 2000 Olympic final by American Marthy Nothstein. With France’s last winner being Daniel Morelon in 1972, it is no wonder Baugé wants nothing less than gold this time.

“With Florian, we’ve been preparing for this for the past four years. There have been some difficult moments, but we’ve come here ready,” said Baugé.

“This is the big objective of my entire career. The thought of defeat has not even entered my mind.”

Baugé, however, faces a tough field that includes Germany’s Robert Forstemann, Australian Shane Perkins and, above all, Englishman Kenny.

Kenny was only recently given Britain’s sole spot for the sprint tournament ahead of Hoy and showed on Thursday — when he posted some superb times in the team sprint competition — he has the required speed to win gold.

While the women’s inaugural Olympic team pursuit finals are held, with Britain and Australia the favorites for gold, the other main event is the men’s inaugural omnium.

Mixing the sheer power of the flying lap and kilometer time trial, the tactical nous of the points, elimination and scratch races, and the endurance of the 4km pursuit, the omnium is similar to the decathlon in track and field.

Among the names to look out for are Australia’s world champion Glenn O’Shea, Canada’s Zach Bell and British pursuit specialist Ed Clancy.

The omnium was introduced at the world championship level in 2007. Six different riders have won the title.

O’Shea knows he will be a target, but says the competition is wide open.

“There’s no doubt there will be a target on my head being the world champion,” said the Australian.

“But everyone’s really close, you only have to look at the World Cups to see there’s a lot of strong performances.

“We’ve done our research, and there’s 10 different people who can win the gold medal.”