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MELBOURNE, Australia (VN) — Taking a page out of the men’s team pursuit book, the Great Britain women’s TP line-up showed that anything the men can do, women can do better.
While the men seem to have reached a ceiling of sorts with the 3:53.314 benchmark set in Beijing and only marginally bettered in Melbourne last night (3:53.295), the standard continues to crumble in the women’s team pursuit. The world record was broken twice Thursday evening at Hisense Arena — and bettered by two-and-half seconds.
In qualifying, the GB three of Laura Trott, Dani King and Joanna Rowsell took their existing world record (set at the London World Cup) from 3:18.184 to 3:16.850 over 3,000 meters. Another fever pitch Aussie-British rivalry was established when the Australian women finished second best, posting 3:17.053, a time that also broke the previous WR.
Unfortunately for the American trio of Sarah Hammer, Dotsie Bausch and Lauren Tamayo, although they recorded their fastest sea-level time of 3:21.765, it was only good enough for fifth place behind Canada and New Zealand, precluding them from the bronze medal final.
Just as they did in qualifying, the tenacious British trio began more slowly than their hometown counterparts who had a bellowing crowd right behind them. But as the 12 laps counted down, the Brits assiduously picked up the pace until they were neck-and-neck with just over 500 meters remaining.
From that moment on, they stayed number one. A seven-week world record became a sub-seven hour world record, to eventually rest for the night at 3:15.720, 1.13 seconds faster than their previous best.
“It’s just so good to come out here and beat them on their home circuit,” King said. “A lot of Australians were commenting after the (London) World Cup that (the world record) was all (due to) the hometown support. Well, they’ve got that here and we’ve still beat them, so we’re really happy.”
As for the much anticipated women’s sprint showdown, Australia’s cycling idol, Anna Meares, after beating arch-rival Victoria Pendleton at last year’s track worlds in Apeldoorn, Holland, and most recently at the London Track World Cup in February, dealt her third psychological blow in 12 months.
In the Flying 200, the qualifying event that eventually leads to the match sprint finals for first through fourth places Friday evening, Meares broke Simona Krupeckaite’s two-year-old world record set in Moscow in May 2010, lowering the Lithuanian’s mark from 10.793 to 10.782 seconds. Pendleton, a five-time world sprint champion, could only manage 11.076 to place her fifth-best, behind China’s Shuang Guo (who Meares beat in the quarterfinals 2-0, reversing the result at the London World Cup), Miriam Welte (Germany) and Wai Sze Lee (Hong Kong).
“I was nowhere near expecting that,” said Meares, who was the only rider to go under 11 seconds Thursday.
“I was surprised during the effort because I remember when I sat down I was thinking to myself, ‘This doesn’t feel good – Go, go, go! Go harder! Go harder!’”
Doubtless it is Meares’ race to lose, but as she well knows, speed is only one part of the winning match sprint equation. “It’s down to tactics, it’s down to nerves, it’s down to decision-making; speed doesn’t win it for you. I’ve got to get it right across the board if I want to come home with that world title,” the 28-year-old Queenslander said.
While it’s very easy to get blasé about world records and record-breaking in track cycling, what many consider to be a young person’s sport and for many, a transitory path to a career on the road, one should always pay due respect to their elders.
For on Thursday, German Stefan Nimke, 34 years young and the last of the 27 riders to leave the start gate, joined France’s Arnaud Tournant and Sir Chris Hoy of Great Britain as a four-time world ‘kilo’ champion (2003, ‘09, ’11, ‘12). Australia was the setting for Nimke’s first world championship medal (albeit a bronze) in Perth in 1997, so it’s fitting that he came full circle here in Melbourne in 2012.
“It means an enormous amount to me because this is my last world championship in the sprint discipline, maybe even for my general sporting career. You never know what’s to come, but I’ve been saying after the Olympics I’ll stop with sprint. This will be my last appearance in the world championship,” Nimke affirmed.
“In that respect, it’s a golden finish, beating my own personal record, setting a new German record, (and a) world champ title.”
Realizing life in advertising was nothing like Mad Men and buoyed by the Olympic Games in his Australian hometown of Sydney, Anthony Tan turned his back on a lucrative copywriting career in 2000 in pursuit of something more cerebral. Combining wordsmithing with his experiences as an A-Grade club racer and an underwhelming season competing in Europe, a career as a cycling scribe beckoned… More than a dozen Grand Tours and countless Classics later, it’s where he still is today. He has been a contributor to VeloNews since 2006. In 2010, he won Cycling Australia’s media award for best story. Follow him on Twitter: @anthony_tan