By Andrew Hood
Defending Olympic champion Anna Meares beat her own world record with a new time of 33.588 to win Australia’s first gold medal at the Palma de Mallorca world championship.
Meares set the previous record in November with 33.944, but shaved nearly a half-second off on the new boards at the Palma velodrome.
“I felt really good right from the gun,” said the tearful Meares. “Just as this season has progressed, I’ve gotten better and better.
“I wasn’t sure if a world record would be possible because I didn’t know the condition of this track. I didn’t think about it. I just went through the motions of the race.”
Two-time defending world champion Natalia Tsylinskaya (Belorussia) started last, but could only muster the bronze while Cuban rider Lisandra Guerra claimed silver with 34.015.
Shanadze Reade (Great Britain), racing in her first-ever 500m TT, started second and set the benchmark at 34.633, a time that stood for 16 riders until Simona Krupeckaite (Lithuania) shaved that down to 34.487.
Reade’s performance was perhaps the most surprising. The former BMX champion started racing track just eight months ago and won gold with the women’s team sprint. The 18-year-old was a late addition after Victoria Pendleton preferred to focus her attention on the sprint event.
“I’m far from disappointed,” Reade told AFP. “It was my first time ever riding that event. I’m really thrilled to bits. Now I think I will look a bit closer at doing this event in the future.”
Men’s 40km points race: Llaneras impressive
Emotions poured out of Joan Llaneras almost as fast as he scooped up points to win Spain’s first gold medal of the 2007 world track championships in front of an emotional hometown crowd in Palma de Mallorca.
Tears streamed from Llaneras’ eyes as he pointed to the heavens to remember his fallen Madison partner Isaac Galvez, who died in a track-racing accident in November in Belgium.
“To win in these conditions cannot be described in words,” said Llaneras, who told Spanish journalists he couldn’t bear to talk about Galvez. “The cheers of the crowds gave me extra power to win this world title.”
The inspired Llaneras won his career fourth points race world title with 76 points. Belgian Iijo Keisse taking silver with 55 points and defending Olympic champion Mikhail Ignatiev with bronze with 52 points.
A raucous filled-to-capacity crowd cheered the 37-year-old when he attacked with 57 laps to go in the 160-lap, 40km race to eventually lap the field. They later chanted, “Campeón! Campeón!” as he accepted the gold medal to eclipse the six-medal mark he shared with Spanish track legend and fellow islander Guillermo Timoner.
“To attack like I did was risky, but I wanted to guarantee that I would win the rainbow jersey,” Llaneras said. “I saw a moment when my opponents were weak and decided to attack. When I lapped the peloton, I could ride more tranquil and enjoy the moment.”
The 37-year-old, who raced on the road with U.S. Postal Service in the 1990s, wanted to retire after the 2004 Summer Olympic Games, but found new motivation to continue so he could race in front of the hometown crowds in Palma.
Then he was emotionally destroyed last winter when Madison partner Galvez died in a track racing accident in November.
“Don’t even ask me about Isaac,” Llaneras said in February. “It makes me go crazy with grief to even think about him.”
Michael Creed, the lone American starter, finished last in qualifying with one point and didn’t make it into the medal round. U.S. endurance coach Colby Pearce said Creed had been fighting off a cold that forced him out of a stage race in Portugal two weeks ago.
Men’s sprint: Bos, MacLean, two Frenchies into Sunday’s final
Theo Bos (Netherlands) made it through Saturday’s quarterfinals to challenge for the gold medal in Sunday’s sprint finale. The semi-finals and finals will be held as part of the final day of competition.
The defending world sprint champion made easy work of Italian Roberto Chiappa in two straight heats. Mickael Bourgain (France) also pushed through after getting past Stefan Nimke (Germany).
Keirin bronze medalist Ross Edgar (Great Britain) made a late bike stab to nip Craig McLean (Great Britian) at the line but McLean equalized it in the second round and won the decider to advance.
Gregory Bauge (France) took out European champion Max Levy (Ger) in the first round but held off a late charge by a half-tire length to put two French riders into the semifinals.
Women’s sprint: Pendleton golden again
Britain’s Victoria Pendleton put her sprint power on display against China’s Shuang Guo to reclaim her crown at the world track cycling championships Saturday.
Pendleton, considered one of Britain’s biggest hopes for Olympic gold in Beijing next year, secured victory in the tactical speed event by dominating her Chinese rival with relative ease over two final legs.
Guo, who later complained of suffering from an upset stomach, went one better than her bronze medal last year to take the silver, while Australian Anna Meares – who earlier broke the world record for the 500m time trial – took bronze after beating Lisandra Guerra of Cuba to cap a superb third day of competing.
Pendleton has already won gold here in the women’s inaugural team sprint event with fellow Englishwoman Shanaze Reade.
She admitted that 17 months ahead of her bid for a first Olympic gold in the sprint it was a huge relief reclaiming the rainbow jersey she last won in Los Angeles in 2001.
“Once you’ve had the world title and lost it, it’s a big blow. You have to get it back,” said Pendleton, who won three events at the Manchester leg of the World Cup in February to signal her pre-competition form. “I knew after Manchester that I was in the best form of my life, so that gave me confidence to go out and try my best.”