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29th Olympic Games - JO
Beijing, China, August 9-23, 2008
Event 31 - August 19: Men's Madison Final
Argentina lands knockout blow early
By Laura Weislo with additional reporting from Rob Jones in Beijing
The track events concluded with a surprise victory from the Argentinean duo of Walter Perez and Juan Curuchet in the Madison. With all eyes on the world champion British pair of Bradley Wiggins, already the winner of two Olympic gold medals in Beijing, and Mark Cavendish who is coming off four stages wins in the Tour de France, the unlikely pair slipped away early to steal a lap.
Argentina's winning margin was a slim one point over the Spanish duo of Joan Llaneras and Antonio Tauler, and two points ahead of the Russian pair Mikhail Ignatiev and Alexei Markov. They gained five points on their way to taking the lap, and then scored three more points with minor placings in two other sprints. "We made the first punch," explained Perez, "and the first punch counts twice."
The eight points the Argentineans gained was small when compared with the double digit scores of Denmark, Belgium, France and Germany, but as long as they could hold that one lap advantage, they still had a chance at the win. Russia and Spain both stole laps, but neither team could gain enough points to get over the South American duo.
"In the end, we were worried about Spain and Belgium, because we knew that if they gained a lap we could lose. Spain did get the lap, but it was late in the race and they had nothing left for the finish."
The Argentinean's last major success in the Madison came as a win the 2004 World Championships, but despite heading into Athens with that title, they only finished ninth that year.
An old proverb states "age and treachery will overcome youth and skill", and this certainly held true as 33-year-old Perez was the youngest of the gold and silver medal teams. Curuchet, 43, and Joan Llaneras, 39, will retire after the Olympic Games, and both will go home with gold medals to cap off long and successful careers. Llaneras took the win in the points race earlier in the week, which was his second Olympic gold in that event after his win in Sydney eight years ago.
The much younger Russian pair used Ignatiev, 23 to power the team onto the same lap as the team from Argentina, but with two pursuiters, they lacked punch in the sprints to score enough points to move up in the standings. They were joined by the Canadian pair of Zach Bell and Martin Gilbert on their way to lapping the field, but the Canadians later were dropped and lost a lap on the field.
The young Belgian team Iljo Keisse and Kenny de Ketele racked up three sprints and two minor places to tally up 17 for fourth place, while the Germans showed that Roger Kluge, the points race silver medallist, is a real threat for the future by taking 15 points over five sprints with his experienced partner Olaf Pollack.
The Danish team, Alex Rasmussen and Michael Mørkøv, who already earned silver as part of their country's team pursuit squad, earned 14 points to finish sixth. Frenchmen Jerome Neuville and Matthieu Ladagnous were seventh with 12 points with the Dutch pair, Peter Schep and Jens Mouris well behind in eighth with six. The British could only manage ninth place, one rung up from New Zealand's Greg Henderson and Hayden Roulston.
The biggest surprise of the race was the fact that neither world champions Great Britain, who were heavily favoured after the country took home the vast majority of the track gold medals, nor the Swiss, who were second to the Australians in Athens, could make any moves stick. Former world champions Bruno Risi and Franco Marvulli finished a distant 11th. The Australians did not qualify a team for the Olympic Games, even though they had won the Madison in both Athens and Sydney.
How it unfolded
The Argentineans were aggressive from the gun, and attacked early, drawing Belgium along with them to a half lap advantage before being reeled in for the first sprint, which was taken by Denmark. After the nervous, rapid start to the race, the peloton settled into a steady rhythm before the second sprint.
Belgium put in a perfectly timed exchange to take the second sprint ahead of Russia, the USA and Great Britain. The sprint was immediately countered by the Italians, Fabio Masotti and Angelo Ciccone. Sporting day-glo yellow accents on their black Pinarellos, the Italians became the first team to take a lap on the field.
The Argentineans put in their winning move ahead of the third sprint, countering the efforts of Italy on a field which was still calculating its efforts with 140 laps to go. The South Americans snuck in a win in the sprint and then tacked onto the back of the field to bring themselves onto the same lap as Italy.
Canada was the next to go on the attack, with Zach Bell and Martin Gilbert being joined by the Russian pair of Ignatiev and Markov and Czechs Alois Kankovsky and Milan Kadlec. The trio stayed clear for the fourth sprint, won by Canada ahead of the Czech Republic and Russia, with Belgium taking one point from the field.
The Russians attacked the break, dropping first the Czechs and then the tenacious Canadians before latching onto the back of the field. The effort wore on Gilbert and Bell, who would later lose contact and finish three laps down. Belgian Iljo Keisse switch bikes mid-race, but he did so without missing a beat.
Germany took the fifth sprint with 100 laps to go, and were followed by the British, German and French teams. The sprint was followed by a blistering attack from Spaniard Llaneras, who was joined by the Swiss and Belgians. With these highly favoured teams off the front, the chase was fast and furious, with the British leading the charge to join the leaders.
Spain countered its own move and gained a half lap in advance of sprint six. They were joined by the Czech pair, who were off the back and did not place in the sprint. Germany mopped up the second place points ahead of the Dutch and Swiss teams in the field.
The Spaniards continued to forge ahead, briefly picking up the Canadians, who could not hold the pace. As Llaneras and Tauler wove their way through the dropped riders, New Zealand attacked off the front of the field ahead of sprint number seven.
With the peloton shattered into several groups, there was some confusion as to who should be awarded the sprint - the Kiwis, who led a group of riders across the line, or the Spaniards, who hadn't quite lapped the "field", but were at the back of a group mixed with riders on the same lap as the peloton and dropped riders further behind.
The New Zealanders were given the points in a decision which would be the difference between gold and silver for the Spaniards. The confusion was compounded by the fact that Spain wasn't awarded the lap until after the seventh sprint, which technically meant they were in the lead and should have been given the five points.
The Kiwis, Belgians and Dutch made a move next, and were joined by Argentina, who slipped in for third in the eighth sprint behind Belgium and the Netherlands, further distancing Spain, who only had five points to their eight, before going back to the field.
Keisse went on the attack again as time began to run out to make the most of their lead in the points. They desperately needed to bring themselves onto the same lap as Russia, Spain and Argentina to get into the medals. Keisse stayed clear to take the penultimate sprint, and then Germany, who had the same idea, joined them in the lead with a huge surge from Olaf Pollack and Roger Kluge.
Unfortunately, the Danes had the same idea, and when they jumped the rest of the field responded, and the three teams were brought back with one final push from the Netherlands and the field was all together heading into the final sprint. It was now up to Spain and Russia to challenge Argentina in the last battle for the points, but instead France and Denmark attacked the field to sweep up the maximum points, while Spain snuck into third to move ahead of Russia into silver.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by AFP Photo
Images by Casey Gibson/www.cbgphoto.com
Images by Rob Jones/www.canadiancyclist.com
Images by Greg Chang/Photosport International
1 Argentina 8 pts Juan Esteban Curuchet Walter Fernando Perez 2 Spain 7 pts Joan Llaneras Antonio Tauler 3 Russia 6 pts Mikhail Ignatyev Alexei Markov One lap behind 4 Belgium 17 pts Iljo Keisse Kenny De Ketele 5 Germany 15 pts Roger Kluge Olaf Pollack 6 Denmark 14 pts Michael Moerkoev Alex Nicki Rasmussen 7 France 12 pts Matthieu Ladagnous Jerome Neuville 8 Netherlands 6 pts Jens Mouris Peter Schep 9 Great Britain 6 pts Mark Cavendish Bradley Wiggins 10 New Zealand 5 pts Greg Henderson Hayden Roulston 11 Switzerland 3 pts Franco Marvulli Bruno Risi Three laps behind 12 Canada 5 pts Zachary Bell Martin Gilbert 13 Czech Republic 3 pts Milan Kadlec Alois Kankovsky 14 Italy Angelo Ciccone Fabio Masotti 15 Ukraine Lyubomyr Polatayko Volodymyr Rybin Four laps behind 16 United States 3 pts Michael Friedman Bobby Lea