By Andrew Hood
The French team gave something for the packed house to cheer about in a riveting victory over Great Britain in the men’s team sprint in Thursday night at the world track championships.
Led by Gregory Bauge, Mickael Bourgain and veteran Arnaud Tournant, the French relegated defending world champions Great Britain into runner-up status as the fans’ enthusiasm seemed to inject the French with energy.
“It’s very satisfying to win at home because this team is very young and no one expected much of us,” Tournant said. “This will boost the morale for the team for the rest of the weekend.”
The French were fastest in all three laps and finished in 43.969 to edge the Brits, who stopped the clock in 44.194. The Australians took bronze ahead of the Netherlands.
“You’re always disappointed not to retain a world title,” said David Brailsford, team manager for Great Britain. “The boys have come back from the Commonwealth Games and ridden a great time, and that’s all we can ask.”
In the recent Commonwealth Games, Great Britain raced along national lines as Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England. The Brits, racing together in a unified team, won the world title in Los Angeles last year.
The Americans didn’t advance after placing 10th in the qualifying round. The team, which included Ben Barczewski, Giddeon Massie and Christian Stahl, posted a time of 46.146 seconds.
Schep gets his
Dutch veteran Peter Schep grabbed the gold in the men’s 40km points race in a dominant performance that saw pre-race favorites fall short.
Olympic points champion Mikhail Ignatiev (Russia) could only muster ninth while two-time world champion Juan Llaneras (Spain) was 11th against Schep’s onslaught.
“I went out hard to show everyone I was strongest,” he said, referring to wins in the second and third of 16 sprints. “I won again in the final, so there’s leaving no doubt.”
American Brad Huff, who qualified for the final after placing 10th in the first round, pulled out of the 20-rider final.
Schep, 29, won handily with 31 points, to second place rider Rafal Ratajczyk (POL) with 18 points and third place Vasili Kiryienka (BLR) with 15.
“My girlfriend is a world champion judo fighter, so we both dreamed of sharing our house as world champions,” he said. “I used to doubt my abilities, but not anymore.”
Belarus rider Natalia Tsylinskaya fended off Olympic champion Anna Meares in the women’s 500m time trial with Cuban Lisandra Guerra nudging onto the podium.
Tsylinskaya won her fourth world title in five years with 34.152 seconds to relegate Meares, who won the gold last year, into silver with 34.352. Guerra, 18, pushed Great Britain’s more experienced Victoria Pendleton into fourth.
Guerra is a product of the UCI’s training center in Aigle, Switzerland, and jumps onto the podium for the first time in her short elite career.
“I came here with a lot of hopes because I’ve really worked hard over the past seven months,” said Guerra, who hails from the town of Matansa, 90km away from Havana but left Cuba two years ago for the UCI center in Aigle.
“I’d brought the national flag with me in my bag, just in case,” she said. “I’m really happy with third place, but next year I want to be on top of the podium.” AFP contributed to this report
The world track championships continue Friday with the women’s 25km points race; men’s individual pursuit; men’s keirin; and the men’s kilometer time trial.