Swiss duo takes Madison
Stuttgart’s world track championships wrapped up on a high note for Germany as its sprinters showed the host country’s riders were still capable of a bit of teamwork.
After the implosion of its team pursuit squad, Germany demonstrated the depth of its sprint program by fending off a strong challenge in the gold medal round from the French to secure the world team sprint competition on Sunday.
The final in the three-lap event – formerly tagged with the somewhat confusing moniker of “Olympic Sprint” – pitted Germany’s Carsten Bergemann, Jens Fiedler and Rene Wolff against a strong French team composed of Arnaud Tournant, Mickael Bourgain and world sprint champion Laurent Gane.
Starting on opposite sides of the track, with the lead rider peeling off after each lap, the teams fought a close battle over three circuits of Stuttgart’s 285-meter velodrome. Like the team pursuit, the Germans are defending Olympic champions in the discipline. Unlike their pursuiting brethren, however, these guys could work together.
“Ohhhh, we are just simple sprinters.” Wolff joked after the team’s win. “We don’t lead such complicated lives as the pursuiters.”
“I think the difference for us is that none of us takes the other too seriously,” Fiedler added.
What Fiedler did take seriously on Sunday, however, was his job as lead-off man for the German trio.
Tournant, who finished for the French, said Fiedler’s effort was decisive.
“They were a tenth-of-a-second ahead after one lap because of Jens and we never got that back,” he said.
Indeed the gap was about that at the finish as Bergemann crossed the line at 49.957 seconds, edging Tournant who crossed at 50.071.
“It’s just that close,” noted Tournant. “All of the top teams are just amazingly strong and very, very fast.”
The German trio said that they were inspired to do well in a week in which the home press was largely focused on the pursuit team’s troubles.
“We wanted to close the championships like it opened (with a German victory in the Keirin,” Fiedler said. “It started well and it ended well … it’s just there were some problems in the middle. But we got together and said that we needed to do our best. We said to each other that we have to do this for Germany… and we did it!”
After a disappointing world’s – in which the highest U.S. placing was Colby Pearce’s 11th place in the points race – U.S. track coach Des Dickie said he had hoped for a respectable performance in the team sprint. And, indeed, in the qualifier, the American team Stephen Alfred, Gideon Massie and Anton Quist were on track to break into the top eight and begin to work their way through the next rounds… that is until the final lap when Quist misjudged his line, hit one of the sponges marking the blue line and crashed.
Dickie was somewhat philosophical about the outcome.
“I guess it might as well happen now, because this was already the worst world championship I have ever done as a coach and I’ve been doing this since 1976,” Dickie said. “We have a lot of re-tooling to do when we get back.”
Meanwhile, Britain’s Chris Hoy, who also lost out in the medals when he failed to defend his kilometer crown, said that winning any medal except the gold was unacceptable.
“At the end of the day it doesn’t matter if the medal’s silver or bronze. It isn’t gold,” said the Scot. “My own performance was pretty poor, but it was quite difficult with the races being so close together. I was terrible in the second lap of the first leg and then didn’t produce the goods in the final. I just felt nothing in the legs.”
Nevertheless, Hoy said, their failure, in the light of their stirring gold-winning performance last year, would only serve to make the British team hungrier for the championships in Melbourne next year.
“In a way it’s probably better for us to be given a little check,” added Hoy. “It’s always harder to defend a title than actually win it so it means we’ll be hungrier for it the next time.”
The replacement comes through
When Switzerland’s Franco Marvulli planned his assault on the track world’s he had expected to take on Wednesday’s scratch race and follow up with Sunday’s Madison with his partner Alexandre Aeschbach.
Part one worked out just fine when Marvulli won gold in the points race, but by that point part two of his plan was already in doubt. The problem lay with Aeschbach who had arrived in the Stuttgart area a little earlier in the week to spend time with his girlfriend who lives nearby.
On Monday of last week, Aschbach was hit by a bus, breaking two ribs and ending his chance at world’s. Marvulli was without a partner.
On Tuesday, Marvulli called Zurich to aske the renowned six-day racer Bruno Risi to join him in Stuttgart.
“It came as a surprise to me,” said Risi. “I had been racing criteriums on the road last week and, to be honest, spent Saturday night partying a little. But I agreed and got on the rollers to start working out as soon as I could.”
Risi who, with his partner Kurt Betschart, has the winningest record among active six-day racers, said one advantage he had was the he was intimately familiar with the track in Stuttgart.
“I won the points race here in 1991 and I am here a lot to race during the season,” Rissi said.
At the start of the 180-lap event, Marvulli was happy to defer to his more experienced partner when laying out the strategy.
“He told me that the French and Spanish tend to let things go until the end and then try a strong attack to lap the field as everyone else tires,” Marvulli said. “He also called the right attack to join when the two Argentineans went off to lap the field. They were happy to have gained the lap and then we did our work to rack up the points.”
The Swiss-Argentinean combo was joined up front by the New Zealand duo of Gregory Henderson and Hayden Roulston who went on to finish second. Argentinians Juan Esteban Curuchet and Walter Perez took third in the 54.1km race.
The two Swiss looked stumped when asked if they might try to keep the winning combination together for next year’s world’s in Melbourne.
“I don’t know,” said Marvulli. “We both have partners already, but this replacement guy worked out pretty well, no?”
Grankovskaya wins sprint gold
Russian speedster Svetlana Grankovskaya grabbed her second gold medal of the competition after holding off Natalia Tsylinskaya to reclaim her sprint crown on Sunday.
Grankovskaya, who is considered the fastest female sprinter in the world, held off her Belarussian rival over two rounds in the final to stake her claim for Olympic glory next year in Athens.
The 27-year-old’s tally stands well enough by itself but was crucial to lifting Russia to the top of the medals table ahead of France.
Russia finished with four gold medals and two bronze, the other two gold medals coming from 34-year-old veteran Olga Slusareva who won the points race and the scratch titles.
However, it is Grankovskaya – the world sprint champion in 2001 – who looks to be the one rider the women will have to watch out for when the Olympics get under way.
As with the men’s events, the women riders in track cycling seem to come against the same group of rivals and last year it was Tsylinskaya who won gold with her Russian rival coming fifth.
However Grankovskaya turned the tables on her mediocre worlds in Copenhagen last year to first hold off promising Victoria Pendleton, the sprint revelation of the British team, in the semis.
The Russian timed 11.66 and 11.617 to push Pendleton into the bronze medal match against Nancy Contreras where the experienced Mexican sprinter, the world 500-meter champion in 2001, held sway.
Grankovskaya’s two-heat final went the same way and she timed 12.558 and 11.798 to push Tsylinskaya into second place.
Results from the final day of the world track cycling championships here on Sunday:
Qualifying (eight fastest times qualify)
Russia (Vladimir Kiriltsev, Sergey Koucherov, Dmitry Leopold), 1:04.74 beat United States (Stephen Alfred, Gideon Massie, Anton Quist), DNF
Czech Republic (Pavel Buran, Arnost Dromanek, Alois Kankovsky, 52.10, beat Cuba (Julio Cesar Herrera, Ahmed Lopez, Michel Pedrozo), 52.619
Japan (Toshiaki Fushimi, Kiyofumi Nagai, Tomohiro Nagatsuka), 51.195, beat Colombia (Rodrigo Barros, Jonathan Marin, Wilson Meneses), 53.108
Netherlands (Jan Bos, Theo Bos, Teun Mulder), 50.939, beat Greece (Kleanthis Bargas, Dimitris Georgalis, Lampros Vasilopoulos), 52.023
Spain (Jose Antonio Escuredo, Salvador Melia, Jose Antonio Villanueva), 50.802, beat Poland (Rafal Furman, Lukasz Kwiatkowski, Damian Zielinski), 52.044
France (Laurent Gane, Mickael Bourgain, Arnaud Tournant), 50.48, beat Australia (Jobie Dajka, Mark French, Ryan Bayley), 50.70
Britain (Craig McLean, Chris Hoy, Jason Queally), 50.47, beat Germany (Carsten Bergemann, Jens Fiedler, Rene Wolff), 50.50
1st round heats
Australia (Jobie Dajka, Mark French, Ryan Bayley), 50.631, beat Spain (Jose Antonio Escuredo, Salvador Melia, Jose Antonio Villanueva), 50.742
Germany (Jens Fiedler, Rene Wolff, Carsten Bergemann), 50.03, beat Netherlands (Jan Bos, Theo Bos, Teun Mulder), 50.727
France (Laurent Gane, Mickael Bourgain, Arnaud Tournant), 50.125, beat Japan (Toshiaki Fushimi, Kiyofumi Nagai, Tomohiro Nagatsuka), 50.369
Britain (Craig McLean, Jamie Staff, Jason Queally), 50.47, beat Greece (Kleanthis Bargas, Dimitris Georgalis, Lampros Vasilopoulos), 51.984
Germany (Jens Fiedler, Rene Wolff, Carsten Bergemann), 49.957, beat France (Laurent Gane, Mickael Bourgain, Arnaud Tournant), 50.071
Britain (Craig McLean, Jamie Staff, Chris Hoy), 50.442, beat Australia (Jobie Dajka, Mark French, Ryan Bayley), 50.653
1. Switzerland (Bruno Risi, Franco Marvulli), 13 pts
2. New Zealand (Gregory Henderson, Hayden Roulston), 5
3. Argentina (Juan Esteban Curuchet, Walter Perez), 5
4. Netherlands (Robert Slippens, Danny Stam), 18 (one lap behind)
5. Slovakia (Martin Liska, Jozef Zabka), 12 olb
6. Austria (Roland Garber, Franz Stocher), 9 olb
7. Germany (Guido Fulst, Andreas Muller), 8 olb
8. Australia (Graeme Brown, Mark Renshaw), 6 olb
9. France (Jerome Neuville, Franck Perque), 6 olb
10. Colombia (Leonardo Duque, Alexander Gonzalez), 5 olb
11. Spain (Miguel Alzamora, Joan Llaneras), 5 olb
12. Czech Republic (Martin Blaha, Petr Lazar), 3 olb
13. South Africa (Robert Dale, Jean-Pierre Van Zyl), 0 olb
14. Belgium (Matthew Gilmore, Wouter Van Mechelen), 2 two laps behind
15. Russia (Andrei Minachkine, Mikhail Mikheev), 2 three laps behind
Natallia Tsylinskaya (Blr), 11.712 and 11.616, beat Nancy Contreras (Mex), 2-0
Svetlana Grankovskaya (Rus), 11.66 and 11.617, beat Victoria Pendleton (GB), 2-0
Svetlana Grankovskaya (Rus), 12.558 and 11.798, beat Natallia Tsylinskaya (Blr), 2-0
Nancy Contreras (Mex), 12.198 and 12.009, beat Victoria Pendleton (GB), 11.669
Daniela Larreal (Ven), Katrin Meinke (G), Tamilla Abasova (Rus), Cuihua Jiang (Chn)
Oxana Grishina (Rus), Anna Meares (Aus), Lori Ann Muenzer (Can), Rosealee Hubbard (Aus)