By Andrew Hood
Australia took a nail-biter to win the men’s team pursuit in a pitched battle against arch-rival Great Britain in Saturday’s action at the world track cycling championships.
The Brits were fastest in qualifying, but the Aussies clawed back with an impressive victory against the team – racing as England, not Great Britain – that beat them on their home track in Melbourne last month at the Commonwealth Games.
“This is the sweetest world title of my four,” said Peter Dawson after the Aussies won in 4:01.491 to the British team’s 4:01.527. “The battle was going back and forth and it came down to the final 15 to 20 meters of the sprint. The Brits beat us in Melbourne and it’s never nice to lose at home.”
The Ukraine took advantage of a slow start by the Dutch to take the bronze in 4:04.695.
Dawson was joined by fellow veteran Stephen Woolridge, who fell back at 3000m, and newcomers Mark Jamieson and Matthew Goss.The Brits were led by Stephen Cummings, Roberto Hayles, Paul Manning and Geraint Thomas, racing for the first time in the lineup to hone his skills ahead of Beijing.
“We’re actually satisfied with the silver because it was so close and the boys were tired from traveling back from Australia,” said British endurance coach Simon Jones.
Earlier in the day, the U.S. team finished 12th in qualifying. The Americans – featuring Mike Creed, Mike Friedman, Danny Pate and Brad Huff – posted a time of 4:14.952, short of their goal of 4:09, but faster than the team’s previous best of 4:16 at the Los Angeles World Cup race.
“We have the engines, we just have to learn how to warm them up,” said Huff, who also raced in Friday’s points race. “We did 14:08 in practice, but we came here way too early. We were off in everything. Creed and Pate didn’t rip us off their wheel like they normally do.”
The team admits it has some kinks to work out in its “David vs. Goliath” challenge against the established powerhouses in team pursuit.
“We’re not experienced enough to make a mistake and make up for it,” Creed said. “Yesterday we were great in training, we rode our fastest ever kilometers at a flying start, but we knows things are different with a standing start.”
Saturday’s qualifying was only the second time the team has raced in international competition and marked the first American men’s team pursuit at a world championship since 2000.
Belarus scores in women’s sprint
Natalie Tsylinskaya of Belarus relegated Victoria Pendleton to silver in the women’s sprint while China’s Shuang Guo won bronze ahead of Clara Sanchez (France).
Tsylinskaya, winner of the women’s 500m time trial on Thursday, won both rounds against her British rival.
“The speed of her last two riders was just incredible,” Pendleton said. “I was kind of satisfied with the idea of being second and getting the silver medal, which is terrible, but I couldn’t imagine myself being on top of the podium. It was a lot harder than I thought coming off the Commonwealth Games. A lot of the Aussies were struggling, too.”
Bos goes for second gold
Big Dutch sprinter Theo Bos will ride for his second gold medal in Bordeaux on Sunday after riding into the semifinals in the men’s sprint on Saturday.
Bos, the winner of the men’s keirin on Friday, will face off against Stefan Nimke of Germany. Britain’s Craig Maclean will challenge France’s Mickael Bourgain in the other heat.
Among the Americans, Christian Stahl earned the 23rd seed for the men’s sprint, but lost to second-seeded Maclean in the single-elimination 1-16th round. Stahl was fastest among the U.S. team in the 200-meter qualifying run, stopping the clock at 10.551 seconds and was the only one of three Americans to advance.
Stephen Alfred was 10.657 in 32nd and Ben Barczewski was 10.924 for 41st, but only the top 24 advanced among the 43 starters.
Neuville rams home scratch gold
It took race judges several minutes to decide what French veteran Jerome Neuville already knew – that he won the men’s 15km scratch race in a photo finish.
For Neuville, a former roadie who turned to the track to win two world titles in the Madison, his narrow victory over Argentina’s Angel Colla capped a dramatic race marked by a daring breakaway that held out to the end.
“It was a long race and I didn’t believe it until the end, even at the line,” Neuville said. “I am so glad I didn’t retire after the Athens Olympics. At 30, people don’t want to see progression, but results. I had a lot of pressure on me.”
Neuville tore away with five others less than halfway through the 60-lap race, added to world championship competition for the first time in 2002.
The remains of a chase group reeled in the leaders on the final half lap, but Dutch rider Wim Stroetinga and Italian Danilo Napolitano both seemed boxed out in the final sprint and they had to settle for fourth and fifth, respectively.
Pushed on my Neuville held off a late charge from Colla to grab the gold, while Greek rider Ioannis Tamouridis hung on for third.
“I didn’t think we would be able to stay away, but we just held on,” he said. “I didn’t take a day off the past three weeks, working hard every day. Yesterday I didn’t feel so well, so I tried to conserve as much as I could. This is the best moment of my career.”
Commonwealth Games champion Mark Cavendish, who won in the event last month in racing for Isle of Man, couldn’t hang on and did not finish.
Bobby Lea was the only American in the competition, but he was unable to stay in contact with the main group despite a strong start. He finished fourth in a World Cup race in Sydney last month, the best by an American male endurance rider in a mass-start event this season.