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By John Wilcockson
Indoor track cycling, which was one of America’s most popular sports until World War II, is starting to rediscover its roots at the ADT Event Center in Carson, California. On Saturday, the second night of the three-day UCI track World Cup saw a near-capacity crowd entertained by a variety of world-class performances. And the new fans were on their feet at the end of the evening, cheering all the riders in the men’s 30km points race in which Colorado’s Colby Pearce almost pulled off a stunning victory against Russia’s immaculate Mikhael Ignatiev.
After both men had gained three laps on the field in various breakaways, Pearce and Ignatiev went into the last of the event’s 12 sprints locked on 74 points. None of the other competitors could overhaul the tied leaders, so whichever of the two beat the other to the line would take the gold medal.
The crowd roared when Pearce went for a long sprint with almost two laps of the 250-meter wood track remaining, while Ignatiev seemed to be boxed in. But the Russian got a break with 300 meters left when the rider Pearce was riding with swung up the banking and caused the American to slow down momentarily.
That opening was all Ignatiev needed. He began working his way through the pack, and started closing on his only rival. The powerful Russian kept closing all around the final lap, while Pearce did his best to stay in touch with four riders who had moved ahead. Still Ignatiev closed … and caught Pearce right on the line. It needed the camera to separate them: Ignatiev the winner by 4 inches!
There were no sour grapes from the veteran Pearce, who told VeloNews: “Honestly, the 10 [laps] to go sprint was where I blew it, because I thought I had it locked up when two guys came over me.” One was Ignatiev, who took the maximum five points with that effort to draw level with Pearce: 74-74.
“I was so cross-eyed,” Pearce continued, “I wasn’t entirely lucid enough to be totally on top of my game mentally. I was really cross-eyed. But I did what I could. I raced my race, and when I felt good I went for it, and that’s how it ended up.
“I was happy to give everybody a really good show. It would have been nice to pull out [something] to match Erin Mirabella’s good ride, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
But second place was a great result for the American, to place alongside Mirabella’s Friday points-race victory and her fourth-place finish in the women’s individual pursuit, to push the U.S. team into the top 10 of the 32 nations competing this weekend.
The Netherlands, which has a full squad of 11 riders here, continued to lead the weekend’s overall standings, with Russia, Great Britain and France just behind. The French are represented by a bare-bones squad of only four sprinters, but two of them, veteran Arnaud Tournant and the up-and-coming Mickaël Bourgain, faced each other in the final of the men’s sprint.
Tournant, the aging world record holder in the kilometer time trial, first tried coming from behind and then taking it from the front; but in each of the two rides the youthful Bourgain used his superior acceleration to win the match 2-0.
The other men’s race, the 4km team pursuit, saw individual pursuit winner Robert Bartko, 29, lead his three under-23 German teammates Robert Bengsch, Henning Bommel and Leif Lampater to a an easy win over New Zealand.
In women’s events, Australian Katie Mactier, the former Saturn team road racer, dominated the 3km individual pursuit final over Britain’s Emma Davies, while Mirabella lost the 3rd-4th place ride-off to the petite Russian Elena Chalyk. As for the women’s 500-meter TT, Friday’s sprint winner Natallia Tsylinskaya of Belorus, on the top of her form, took a second gold medal ahead of Italy’s Elisa Frisoni.
This second round of the 2004-05 UCI World Cup closes on Sunday with four more finals, the women’s keirin and 10km scratch race, and the men’s team sprint and two-man 40km Madison. This latter event should provide the home fans another opportunity to cheer on newfound favorite Pearce, who is teamed with former world and Olympic sprint champion Marty Nothstein. This final session of the weekend starts at 11 a.m.
For complete results from the second day of the Los Angeles World Cup, visit www.veloresults.com.