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Hammer, U.S. track squad chasing medals and records on the London velodrome

With the individual pursuit gone, the best chance for a U.S. medal falls on Sarah Hammer in the team pursuit and the omnium

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LONDON, England (VN) — The seven members of Team USA’s Olympic track team met with the press at the Olympic Main Press Center in London on Tuesday morning to field questions about the upcoming track events.

Perhaps the Americans’ biggest opportunity for a medal falls on Sarah Hammer — she has won four world titles in the individual pursuit, and helped set the team pursuit world record with Dotsie Bausch and Lauren Tamayo in May 2010, having set her own individual pursuit world record the previous day.

However, with the individual pursuit gone from Olympic competition, Hammer will instead compete in the team pursuit and the omnium. In April, Hammer took bronze at the world omnium championship, and in February, she won the omnium event at the UCI Track World Cup held at the London Olympic Velodrome, earning her an automatic spot on the Olympic team.

At the 2008 Olympics, Hammer finished fifth in the individual pursuit.

“I’m four years older. I’ve been around, not only on an international level, but also experienced at what the Olympics are,” Hammer said. “I have to say it’s been awesome here. It’s exciting. Everyone has been so nice. It’s so well organized. The village is great. The food is good. It’s been a great experience so far for sure.”

The women’s omnium event is held over two days, featuring a one-lap flying time trial, a 20km points race, an elimination race, a 3,000m individual pursuit, a 10km scratch race and a 500m time trial.

“The best way to describe the omnium is six events over two days with everything from a 14-second effort to a 25-minute points race,” Hammer said. “It includes everything there is on the track; from sprint to endurance to tactical handling skills, time trialing, everything. Obviously the individual pursuit is one of my favorites as it was my bread and butter, but they are all unique. Anything can happen in the mass start events which is what makes it so exciting for the spectators and a little more nerve wracking for the competitors.”

Hammer, Bausch, Tamayo and Jennie Reed make up the four-woman team pursuit squad, however only three women race together as teammates at any given time, meaning one rider will have to sit out a potential medal-winning opportunity.

“We haven’t decided who is going to ride which round, how we’re going to do it,” Tamayo said. “There’s definitely a strategy that’s involved. All four of us will ride. We just don’t know which ride we will do. We’ve worked so hard as a team, the four of us. We’re all supportive of everyone. We know all four of us are going to give 110 percent to the event. Unfortunately, only three of us can ride, but if we medal, all four of us medal, so it’s good for the team.”

At the World Cup in February, the new velodrome proved to be one of the fastest in the world, setting expectations for world records to match gold-medal efforts.

“The track was fast in February, and I think it is going to be just as fast or faster here with everyone’s physical abilities coming up,” Hammer said. “Everyone rides the same track so it’s just kind of a bonus knowing that you also could be going for world records.”

Beijing Olympian Bobby Lea will race the men’s omnium for the U.S. His top international placing was seventh, in the 2008 world omnium championship.

“The six events of the omnium cross the full spectrum from the pure sprint to the pure endurance,” Lea said. “In all honesty, my strengths and weaknesses in the omnium have been evolving as I’ve been evolving as an omnium rider. As far as what’s going to be my stronger or weaker events in the next few days, that remains to be seen. It’s been changing as the racing has been going on. Hopefully, I’ve eliminated a few of those weaknesses.”

Representing the U.S. in the men’s sprint is Jimmy Watkins, a burly 29-year-old firefighter from Bakersfield, California.

“It’s really difficult balancing (being a full-time firefighter, husband and father) and you are spread real thin in every aspect of your life,” Watkins told the assembled media. “You just get it in when you can. I train maybe one day a week down in L.A. on the track and a lot of it is done on stationary bike, weight room or rollers while I’m at work.”

As for his expectations, Watkins said, “It is my first Olympics and it has been pretty cool just to see the magnitude of everything. You realize what it is to represent your country coming in here. You just have to focus on what you are doing and try not to change anything you’ve been doing the last four years.”

Women’s team pursuit

Dotsie Bausch (OUCH)
Jennie Reed (OUCH)
Sarah Hammer (OUCH)
Lauren Tamayo (Exergy Twenty12)

Women’s omnium

Sarah Hammer (OUCH)

Men’s omnium

Bobby Lea (Pure Energy Cycling-ProAirHFA)

Men’s sprint

Jimmy Watkins (Project London 2012)

Olympic track schedule

Thursday, August 2
Men’s Team Sprint: qualifying & finals
Men’s Team Pursuit: qualifying
Women’s Team Sprint: qualifying & finals

Friday, August 3
Men’s Team Pursuit: qualifying & finals
Women’s Keirin: qualifying & finals
Women’s Team Pursuit: qualifying

Saturday, August 4
Men’s Omnium: 250m time trial, 30km points race
Men’s Sprint: qualifying
Women’s Team Pursuit: qualifying & finals

Sunday, August 5
Men’s Sprint: race for 5th-8th places
Men’s Omnium: 4km individual pursuit, 15km scratch race, 1km time trial
Women’s Sprint: qualifying, race for 9th-12th places

Monday, August 6
Men’s Sprint: semifinals, finals
Women’s Omnium: 250m time trial, 20km points race, elimination race
Women’s Sprint: quarterfinals

Tuesday, August 7
Men’s Keirin: qualifying & finals
Women’s Omnium: 3km individual pursuit; 10km scratch race, 500m time trial
Women’s Sprint: semifinals, finals