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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini


World Track Championships - CM

Melbourne, Australia, May 26-30, 2004

Event program and results     Afternoon session progress report

Day 4 evening session progress report:

Steamin' teams pursuit round sets up final

Jens Fiedler (Germany)
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
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May 29, 2004: The evening session of day 4 of the 2004 Track Cycling World Championship is now underway at the Vodafone Arena and the sprinters have been at it, with more heats of the women's quarter finals and the 1/8 finals (or second round as we like to say) of the men's sprint.

If you've just joined us, please see the afternoon session report to catch up on all the action so far today. We have an overall summary plus detailed reports on all the action, plus photos.

So far this evening, in the women's quarter finals, Victoria Pendleton was defeated by Svetlana Grankovskaya in their first race, while Australian Anna Meares also went down to Lori-Ann Muenzer of Canada.

When the men hit the track, the crowd were thrilled by the all-Australian race between Sean Eadie and Ryan Bayley, with Bayley coming around the outside of his elder team mate and popping his customary bike-throw wheelie when he crossed the line.

The second race of the women's sprint quarter finals were both drama-filled. In the GB versus Russia battle, Victoria Pendleton showed aggression beyond her years and appearance when she gave the Russian a huge shove coming into the banking and pushed her down onto the duckboards. The Russian pulled her foot and was lucky to stay upright as she counter-balanced and swung back up the track. Pendleton was first across the line but the judges didn't seem that impressed.

In the Aust versus Canada race, Meares won by the smallest of margins as Muenzer attacked from behind and showed great speed to almost overhaul the Australia. The Canadian is looking very fast tonight as Meares had no answer in the first race.

20:00 EST - The women's 25km points race is underway right now and we will bring updates as the race progresses.

20:12 EST - The race has gone through 40 laps and so far it's fairly even, although Sarah Ulmer (NZl) has tried a couple of digs off the front. In the frist intermediate sprints, Olga Slyusareva has taken a couple, while Vera Carrara (Italy) leads with 8 points.

20:15 EST - The fifth sprint was taken out by France's Marion Clignet who was off the front and looking for a lap, but the field came back together.

20:18 EST - The race has gone into its quiet mode with several riders spread across the field. It's all fairly even with the field prepared to sit on Ulmer. The classy kiwi just cruised across the line - she rarely looks like she's trying - to take the 5 points for the sixth sprint. There are now three riders on 8 points: Katherine Bates (Aust), Olga (Russia) and Carrara (Italy).

20:20 EST - Chinese rider Meifang Li has put in a great attack and taken advantage of the let's watch Sarah style of racing. Hanka Kupfernagel (Ger) lends Ulmer a hand to rope her in, but Li takes the 5 points and Adrie Visser (Netherlands) crosses in second with Ulmer in third.

20:24 EST - The points score at the top of the table is still the same with the three leaders (Bates, Slyusareva, Carrara all on 8), while Lada Kozlikova (Czech Republic) has a go off the front.

20:25 EST - Olga puts the hammer down and takes the next sprint to move into the lead on points with her acceleration leading to a split in the field.

20:26 EST - Carrara, Olga and Belem Guerrero Mendez (Mexico) have attacked off the front and Ulmer and Bates are chasing!

20:28 EST - They're too strong and they'll definitely take out the next sprint and fight out the race for sure. Olga takes the penultimate sprint and is now virtually unassailable.

20:30 EST - Hanka and Li, the Chinese rider, try to chase them down, while the rest of the field will squabble for bronze.

20:32 EST - The trio make contact with the bunch with four to go - great riding. Now it's only between these three - good riding. Well done Carrara, Olga and Belem Guerrero Mendez (Mexico).

20:33 EST - Olga cruised across the line unchallenged to win the gold, Carrara the silver and Perez from Mexico the bronze, courtesy of the 20 points they received when they lapped the bunch.

20:55 EST - Following the women's points race, the crowd was entertained by further rounds of the men's and women's sprints. While the men battled it out for 7 - 12 placings, the women completed their quarter-finals. Anna Meares accounted for Lori-Ann Muenzer in their third and final semi-final, while the Russian, Svetlana Grankovskaya, showed great speed to defeat Pendleton and move into the gold medal ride-off with Anna Meares.

In their first heat for the gold medal, Grankovskaya recovered from a great move by Meares to come around the outside and took the win.

21:10 EST - The first of the men's quarter finals have been held - after repechages won by Damian Zielinski (Poland) and Jamie Staff (GB) moved them into contention - with the Polish rider then winning against Teun Mulder and Staff beating another Dutchman, the young Theo Bos.

Bos crashed after he bumped into Staff - who's built like a brick outhouse - just after they had crossed the line, which means he was travelling at over 60kmh. However, he got up afterwards and walked away.

21:20 EST - Tension is building as Jens Fiedler (Ger) and Laurent Gane were made to re-start their quarter-final heat when one of the riders touched the railing. Fiedler knows how to create tension.

Fiedler cranks it up and Gane follows - the Frenchman shows superior speed to come around Jens in the final straight.

In an earlier quarter-final heat, Ryan Bayley (Aust) defeated MickaŽl Bourgain (France) in another blast of full-on speed. Now, the riders are on the track for the bronze medal final race in the men's teams pursuit.

Lining up for Spain are Carlos Castano Panadero, men's IP gold medalist Sergi Escobar Roure, Asier Maeztu Billalabeitia and Carlos Torrent Tarres. They will race against the Netherlands' team of Levi Heimans, Jens Mouris, Jeroen Straathof and Peter Schep - but it's a false start!

There is always tension when there's a pursuit final as the music (thankfully) stops, the commentators are quiet, the crowd focuses with the riders. But then when the gun fires twice quickly in succession, the letdown is palpable. The riders have to settle themselves again, ride around for a lap, then settle again, take another swig on their bidons handed to them from the minders, and focus again on the task at hand.

But this time the gun fires only once - they're away at last and one of cycling's greatest sounds can be heard - that of the perfect synchronicity of the pursuit team rushing by.

21:30 EST - At 1km down they're neck and neck.

21:32 EST - At 2km they're still too close to call, as the lead see-saws by one or two tenths of a second.

21:33 EST - 3km they were still even - OK - Netherlands trails by .291. It's the bell lap and they're still too close, but Spain stomps on it with two laps to go and wins by .793 of a second with a time of 4.04.968.

21:35 EST - Now, the crowd comes alive as it's the gold medal final of the men's teams pursuit. The British team of Steven Cummings, Paul Manning, Christopher Newton and Bryan Steel is introduced to polite applause; the Australian team of Peter Dawson, Ashley Hutchinson, Mark Renshaw and Stephen Wooldridge brings the house down. The crowd struggles to stay quiet as the clock counts down.

21:36 EST - They're away to deafening applause! Australia starts slightly slower on the first lap but came back after the first lap.

21:37 EST - The Brits come back and Australia trails by .25 of a second. The Australia coach, Ian "Macca" Mackenzie has taken a backwards step on the duckboards - the team knows to pick it up.

21:38 EST - The Australians are coming home and the crowd is urging them home. They're up by .3!

21:39 EST - The gap grows to .395 and the crowd is going wild!

21:40 EST - Australia wins in 4.00.322! Macca opened his arms with 1500 metres to go and the Australians reduced the deficit in one lap and the crowd is still cheering on their third lap. The host nation's first gold medal. The British team pushed them all the way and they finished with a 4.01.

21:42 EST - Stephen Wooldridge stops on the home straight, gets off his bike and kisses the velodrome surface. Peter Dawson stops to hold his BT bike above his head to huge roars from the crowd, while Men At Work's "I come from a land down under" plays over the PA. Yes, this is a home victory.

21:48 EST - Lori-Ann Muenzer has just won Canda's first track cycling world's medal in a long time by defeating Victoria Pendleton (GBr) in their second ride of the bronze medal final - possibly the first since Kurt Harnett?

21:50 EST - Lori-Ann is congratulated by Martain Barras, a French-Canadian who is now Australia's track coach, as well as Shane Sutton, an Australian who is now the Great Britain team's sprint coach.

21:51 EST - Anna Meares (Aust) has just brought the crowd alive again in a thrilling second ride for the gold medal - she is now one even with Svetlana Grankovskaya after the Russian defeated her earlier in the evening.

21:54 EST - In the second heat of the men's quarter final sprint, Poland's Damian Zielinski accounted for Teun Mulder, but in the next heat, his countryman, Theo Bos, was virtually floored by Jamie Staff in their next heat.

The Englishman moved down on the young Dutchman and made him crash on the turn, but thankfully not at speed. Staff then proceeded around the track and rode past Bos, who was then on his feet and walking back, with barely any acknowledgement. Staff is showing plenty of attitude.

21:58 EST - Theo gets his revenge in a thrilling re-start of the second heat. The aggression between these two riders leads to much swerving all over the track as the young Dutchman won't take a backward step to the intimidating, tattooed Englishman. Instead, he shows fluid power and comes around the outside on the back straight and beats him to the line! They're one even!

22:04 EST - The next quarter-final is far more civilised, if sprinting could ever be called civilised. Ryan Bayley shows great speed on the back straight to overhaul MickaŽl Bourgain (France) and win by a tyre-and-rim width, which is a decent margin in sprinting. OK, maybe it was close.

22:08 EST - Has Australia seen the last-ever race by Jens Fiedler in this country? The great German sprinter pushed Laurent Gane hard, but the Frenchman had greater speed in the home straight and overhauled Jens. One experienced observer had told Cyclingnews earlier than Jens was "creeping" - well, it's all relative.

22:10 EST - Fiedler also told Cyclingnews (see interview) that he was going to retire after the 2004 Olympics, so it probably was as he was bundled out of the sprint competition.

22:20 EST - The packed-to-the-rafters audience at Vodafone Arena goes silent as Anna Meares follows Svetlana Grankovskaya in their third and final heat of the gold medal final. Meares attacks with one and a half laps to go but the Russian quickly responds - Svetlana has great speed - and Meares is unable to reel in the Russian who takes the gold!

22:30 EST - The medal ceremonies are taking place and the crowd has hung around, probably because the Australians will receive a gold medal, and possibly because we're in for a cracking final race in the quarter final between Jamie Staff and Theo Bos. The crowd loves the underdog and Theo, who's crashed twice already, is definitely their favourite.

So how did the Australians feel about winning a gold?

Peter Dawson: "Three in a row, it's unbelievable. It's something really special. To do it in front of a home crowd, is so amazing. Six years it's been . . . it's unbelievable."

Ashley Hutchinson: "I was on the sidelines last year and I just can't thank the Australian team enough for taking me on. I have all these emotions. My family is here watching. It's awesome."

Luke Roberts: "To win in front of a home crowd is unbelievable. We weren't all that confident, really. We came here with the aim of qualifying for Athens and a win would be a bonus. This was just a goal along the way, but the main goal is Athens.

"We didn't ride 100 per cent in form so to still win at 95 per cent was aweseome."

Stephen Wooldridge: "It's unbelievable, three in a row for me. The feeling doesn't change, every time it just gets better. The crowd helped a lot here. I haven't raced in front of a crowd like this before. Luke said he wasn't 100 per cent confident but he didn't tell me about that!

And finally, Australian coach Ian Mackenzie: "I am pleased. Pleased we won of course. Pleased for the four guys especially Ashley Hutchinson who helped us out the last couple of years but we haven't been able to repay him.

"This has confirmed in my mind that we have a really good group to pick from for the Olympics. A couple of guys have already cemented their spots. The Australian team is looking good, but we just have to pick up momentum now."

20:40 EST - As the anthems are played and the crowd stands to attention, Jamie Staff circles around the Dutch pit area on his Trek road bike, while Theo sits on his stationary trainer, still with his helmet on.

20:44 EST - The boys are back on the track for the third and final sprint of their quarter final. The music stays too loud - infuriatingly so - and even the annnouncer is oblivious to the tension mounting on the track. But not the crowd - they are silent and intent on watching probably the race of the night.

20:46 EST - Finally the music dies and the announcer stops blabbing - Staff leads out and Bos follows, keeping a respectful distance. Staff winds it up slightly this time but doesn't use his great speed over 500 metres to test the young Dutchman, but as they came onto the home straight to take the bell lap, Bos makes a beautiful move and comes under a huge gap Staff left open.

20:47 EST - Bos is away! It's a beautiful move and he gets the jump on Staff and comes onto the home straight pumping his fist as he crosses the line, well in front of the defeated Englishman!

20:48 EST - The crowd has adopted young Theo as one of their own and Staff rides and slaps the Dutchman on the back and gestures to the crowd to applaud. It's amazing how these sprinters can push each other so hard but once a winner is declared, it's over. A sporting gesture by the Englishman is the final action on the track.