By VeloNews Interactive Wire Services, Copyright AFP 2001
Here’s a look at Saturday and Sunday’s action at the track world championships from Antwerp, Belgium.
— Frenchman Arnaud Tournant upset pre-race predictions to win the world sprint title on Saturday, the main event of the world track championships. The 23-year-old from Roubaix near the Belgian border dominated compatriot and race favorite Laurent Gane over three heats after Gane won the first round and Tournant pulled level in the second. Another Frenchman, Olympic keirin champion Florian Rousseau grabbed bronze after he beat Germany’s Jens Fielder in the match for third place.
Gane, the 1999 world champion, had been expected to dominate the final after the elimination of defending champion Jan van Eijden in the quarters. However, the New-Caledonia native, who compared to kilometer specialist and reigning world kilometer record holder Tournant is considered an out-and-out sprinter, came unstuck as Tournant pulled another ace out his sleeve.
Gane took the upper hand in the first heat as both riders toyed with each other in the tactical minefield that is the sprint, where only the final 200 meters of the two-lap race is timed and where timing and power are crucial. However, Tournant upped the stakes in the second heat to make it all square.
In the deciding third heat, the 23-year-old product of France’s celebrated INSEP (National Institute of Sports) program turned the tables on his rival to record the fastest time of the heats, a title-winning 10.572. The advent of Tournant – who has been gaining sprint recognition all year and really only came here “for the experience” — will now be considered a serious threat to Gane’s dominance of the event, but a bonus to the French sprint team.
— Speedy Mexican Nancy Reyes Contreras won the women’s world 500m time trial title at the world track championships on Saturday. The 23-year-old Contreras clocked the only sub 35-second time of the 17-strong field to relegate Canada’s Lori-Ann Muenzer and Germany’s Katrin Meinke to second and third place respectively.
Contreras, the world junior 500-meter runner-up in 1995 and 1996, finished in 34.996 seconds to claim her first ever senior title. Muenzer, last year’s silver medallist in the sprint event, finished in a close 35.151 to collect the silver, her second medal of the championships after the sprint bronze she won on Friday.
Meinke, Germany’s national time trial champion and last year’s sprint bronze medallist clocked 35.356 to grab the bronze 10 days after her 22nd birthday.
— Switzerland’s Bruno Risi maintained the pace over 160 hard-fought laps to win the men’s points race world title on Saturday. Risi, the 1994 and 1999 world champion, collected a title-winning 29 points from the 40km endurance test to regain his title at the age of 33. Juan Esteban Curuchet of Argentina, another race veteran at 36, took the silver on 23 points, with Austria’s Franz Stocher winning bronze with 17.
Risi had a simple strategy — to control the threat of three-time world champion title winner Juan Llaneras, which he did every time the Spaniard tried to attack at the bonus sprints every 2000 meters. Llaneras, the defending champion and reigning Olympic champion, finally conceded and finished in ninth spot.
France’s Robert Sassone, who finished sixth, also made a brave attempt to upset the order of the race with a breakaway attempt at around 20 laps to go. In the points race, any rider who laps the peloton and finishes the 160 laps in the lead is declared winner with no regard to points collected from sprints.
But Sassone failed to make the difference and was finally soaked up by the ensuing bunch. Risi, who is known for his prominence in the celebrated, endurance-led Six-Day races, was largely expected to gain a podium place.
— Olympic bronze medallist Olga Slioussareva of Russia won the women’s points race on Sunday. Slioussareva collected a total of 21 points throughout the 24km endurance and tactical test, with Australia’s Kathy Bates grabbing a welcome silver medal after coming second with 14 points. In third was Belem Mendez Guerrero of Mexico on five.
Slioussareva, who took the bronze in Sydney last year and repeated the feat at the world championships in Manchester, kept a tight rein on the race which involves racing for bonus points every 10 laps. The 32-year-old Russian, who has held the world 200m sprint record since 1993, collects her first world title.
— France added yet another gold medal to their growing collection on Sunday after Jerome Neuville and Robert Sassone combined to win the world Madison title. The French duo gained only 5 points in the 60km race of 18 two-man teams, but did enough in the dying stages to pull back into contention and gain the necessary laps. Spain came second on 10 at one lap behind with Argentina, also one lap behind, on 9.
— Ryan Bayley won the world keirin title in dramatic fashion on Sunday to hand Australia their only title of the world track championships. Laurent Gane of France came second, as he and Bayley were the only riders to finish the race on their bikes following a major collision just after the penultimate bend.
Four of the six riders came down, but Germany’s Jens Fiedler managed to pull himself up and run with his bike to the line to claim third spot. France’s Olympic champion Florian Rousseau was taken off on a stretcher, while 19-year-old Australian Jobie Dajka was disqualified for dangerous riding.
Copyright AFP 2001