By Jason Sumner, VeloNews associate editor
For the second straight day the Russians proved to be the masters of the points race. This time it was Olga Slyusareva, who powered to a six-point win over Mexico’s Belem Guerrero in the 100-lap race at the Olympic velodrome on Wednesday.
Slyusareva was quiet early in the race, while Guerrero and Colombian Maria Luisa Calle Williams were trading the lead, but the Russian won two straight sprints at lap 80 and 90, putting her over the top.
Guerrero came back to score two points in the final sprint snagging the silver, with Calle settling for bronze.
Slyusareva is a four-time world champion, but this was her first ever gold at the Olympic Games.
“Today is my mother’s birthday,” said Slyusareva. “My medal belongs to her.”
One spot off the medal podium was Erin Mirabella. Coming into the final sprint the American still had a chance at a medal, but she said she was so “cross-eyed” she didn’t even know it.
“I had no idea I was fourth,” said Mirabella, who added that the noise in the sold out velodrome made it impossible for her to communicate with USA Cycling endurance coach Des Dickie. “I was trying to listen to updates, but it just wasn’t happening. But it was easily the hardest race I’ve ever done. From about lap 50 on I was seeing black spots.”
Mirabella got on the scoreboard early, taking second in the first of 10 sprints, netting her three points.
Guerrero was the race’s early leader, after moving off the front of the field in a four-rider break that also included Spain’s Gema Pascual, Brit Emma Davies and Calle, and winning the second sprint.
Calle would take first in the fourth sprint, moving ahead of Guerrero with 50 laps to go. From there the break would dissolve, bringing the race all back together at the race’s halfway point.
Mirabella scored again on sprint 5, again taking second and three points. The American then did a hard turn at the front to help haul in a chase group that had a dangerous look to it.
At 40 laps to go the race was all back together with Calle still out front in the points standings, followed Guerrero. Reigning Olympic individual pursuit champ Sarah Ulmer got into the act with 35 laps to go, bridging across to the U.K.’s Emma Davies. Ulmer took the sixth sprint ahead of Davies. Mirabella was in the mix for the third and fourth place points, but came up empty.
But Slyusareva would take wins at the 60, 80 and 90-lap sprints, giving her an insurmountable lead.
After coming in three points away from second place, Mirabella had nothing in the tank for the final sprint, and was mid pack while Guerrero was wrapping up the silver ahead of Calle.
The final standings had Slyusareva in first with 20, followed by Guerrero (14), Calle (12) and Mirabella with nine.
“I’m still thrilled with the race,” said Mirabella. “I’ve never done better than sixth at world’s so this was a big jump for me.”
Mirabella also set a personal-best mark in the women’s individual pursuit on the second day of the six-day track program.
It was the second medal at these Games for Slyusareva, who also took bronze in the women’s road race. It was Russia’s second gold on the track. Mikhail Ignatyev’s won the men’s points race on Tuesday.
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.Women’s points race final:-
1. Olga Slyusareva (RUS), 20 pts
2. Belem Guerrero Mendez (MEX), 14
3. Maria Luisa Calle Williams (COL), 12
4. Erin Mirabella (USA), 9
5. Vera Carrara (ITA), 8
6. Sarah Ulmer (NZL), 8
7. Gema Pascual (SPA), 7
8. Katherine Bates (AUS), 7
9. Katrin Meinke (GER), 5
10. Yoanka Gonzalez Perez (CUB), 5
11. Adrie Visser (NED), 5
12. Emma Davies (GBR), 4
13. Sonia Huguet (FRA), 2
14. Meifang Li (CHN), 1
15. Lada Kozlikova (CZE), 0
16. Kyriaki Konstantinidou (GRE), -18
17. Yong Mi Kim (KOR), -19
18. Lyudmyla Vypyraylo (UKR), -20
. Santia Tri Kusuma (INA),