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World Track Championships - CM
Melbourne, Australia, May 26-30, 2004
Men's points race final - May 26
Perque counters all to take points race
By Mal Sawford
Facing a dizzying 160 laps of the track, the twenty four finalists were up to speed and strung out single file within the first few laps. Siarhei Daubniuk (Bielorussia) was the first to stretch his legs, after noticing his turn of pace had left him two lengths clear of the bunch.
Daubniuk put his head down and accelerated away, staying clear to take the opening sprint ahead of local hope Mark Renshaw, before returning to the bunch.
Colby Pearce (USA) was the next to surge away, with Daubniuk, Makoto Iijima (Japan) and Sven Teutenberg trying unsuccessfully to get on terms. While Pearce maintained his advantage, a second chase group formed, catching Pearce before the second sprint. Vasyl Yakovlev (Ukraine) took maximum points, from Marco Arriagada (Chile), Pearce and Russel Downing (Great Britain).
The field briefly regrouped before Pearce attacked again, but his effort was wasted after the bunch reformed leading up to the sprint at 130 laps to go. Downing led the sprint out at the bell, and held off the challenges to move into the race lead.
Another surge from the irrepressible Pearce put a significant split into the field, forcing pre race favorite Juan Llaneras (Spain) to spring into action, doing most of the work to close the gap. Sydney Olympic silver medalist Milton Wynants (Uruguay) counter attacked at the regrouping, taking Llaneras, Matthew Gilmore (Belgium), Iijima and Nikita Eskov (Russia) clear, with the sprint taken by Gilmore.
Renshaw kept the bunch in contention, but Llaneras was strong enough to lead out the next sprint from a lap out and hold off the bunch, and also inherit the race lead. As the place getters eased off after the sprint, French rider Franck Perque counter attacked strongly, followed by Juan Curuchet (Argentina), defending World Champion Franz Stocher (Austria), Milan Kadlec (Czech Republic) and Angelo Ciccone (Italy).
The five leaders worked smoothly, and gradually built up a lead of half a lap, with Curuchet timing his turns well to claim maximum points at 100 laps to go. Curuchet became the next race leader when the breakaway made contact with the tail of the main bunch with 92 laps remaining.
After missing the move, Llaneras made a number of efforts to shake off the bunch, but all were quickly neutralized. Jos Pronk (Netherlands) poured on the power approaching the sprint at the half way mark, and once again the bunch split, and with Wynants, Greg Henderson (New Zealand) and Pearce working well, the four leaders were quickly half a lap up.
With the advantage stuck at half a lap, Pearce took the next sprint, before the bunch gradually worked its way back into contention. With the capture inevitable, the break sat up, sparking a brief counter attack from Llaneras, Downing and Eskov. Perque moved into the race lead after taking out the sprint at 60 laps.
Iijima flew clear with 58 laps to travel, and quickly put half a lap on the bunch, before easing slightly to allow Alexander Aeschbach (Switzerland) and Wynants to get on terms. This trio lapped the bunch with 47 laps to travel, with Wynants vaulting into second place only two points behind the French leader.
Perque extended his lead with a strong sprint at the 40 lap mark, and when Yakovlev tried to counter attack down the back straight, the race leader was quick to cover the move. Llaneras took every opportunity to attack, with his impressively smooth style camouflaging his accelerations.
His attack 33 laps out split the bunch, and earned him maximum points at the 30 lap sprint, with Pearce, Yakovlev, Gilmore, Pronk, Teutenberg and Eskov all on the right side of the split. With his race lead under threat, Perque was forced to close the gap single handed, but proved up to the task. Wynants and Iijima made up some ground on the leader with places in the sprint at 20 laps to go, before a clash of handlebars sent Wynants and Renshaw sliding down the banking into the home straight.
Both riders escaped with minor grazing and were able to return to the race, with Wynants resuming in second position, although Renshaw opted to call it a day a little early. While most eyes were on the aftermath of the crash, Llaneras made one last attempt to take the lap he needed to win the race, but came up 100 meters short. He stayed clear to take the two final sprints to finish fourth, an agonizing one point short of the podium.
Iijima's third place in the penultimate sprint saw him in third place approaching the final sprint, but to the disappointment of the huge Japanese media contingent, Juan Curuchet's second placing in the final dash to the line saw him replace the Japanese rider on the podium, and earn his tenth World Championship medal.
Race winner Franck Perque responded to every attack in the closing stages, proving a worthy winner of the first world champion's jersey of the 2004 World Track Championships.
A crazy feeling - Perque
By Karen Forman in Melbourne
Franck perque was understandably delighted to take the first gold medal of these championships. The new points race world champion said: "It's great to be able to carry the French emblem (but) I don't feel yet like a world champion. It is a crazy feeling.
"I was sick last week so I didn't know where I was. The race was very hard. I had to keep going, keep going and always have energy for the last sprint.
"I was exhausted at the start but I had to think about my tactics and execute them until the last sprint."
He attributed his success to his family, saying "they kept me going, supporting me my whole life". He also thanked his team, saying there was a "great atmosphere" between them.
Bronze medalist Juan Curuchet was delighted with his third place. "I'm very happy. It was a great race to be a part of."
One of the early leaders, when asked if he had felt he might win the race he responded "yes, my legs felt really good. Usually when my legs feel good I am a competitor". At 39, he is the oldest competitor at the World Championships.
He was not prepared to put a time frame on his continued participation at the top level: "I have not thought it out. In preparing for the Olympics it is not healthy to have thoughts of retirement in my mind". Juan Curuchet is also quietly confident heading into the Madison: "my partner is very strong, and with my own good feelings I am sure we will be on the podium in a good position".
Images by Mark Gunter
1 Franck Perque (France) 35 pts 2 Milton Wynants (Uruguay) 31 3 Juan Esteban Curuchet (Argentina) 28 4 Juan Llaneras Rosello (Spain) 27 5 Alexander Aeschbach (Switzerland) 27 6 Makoto Iijima (Japan) 26 7 Franz Stocher (Austria) 23 8 Milan Kadlec (Czech Republic) 21 9 Angelo Ciccone (Italy) 20 10 Nikita Eskov (Russia) 15 11 Jos Pronk (Netherlands) 13 12 Greg Henderson (New Zealand) 12 13 Vasyl Yakovlev (Ukraine) 12 14 Russel Downing (Great Britain) 11 15 Colby Pearce (USA) 11 16 Marco Arriagada (Chile) 8 17 Matthew Gilmore (Belgium) 7 18 Tomas Vaitkus (Lithuania) 1 19 Sven Teutenberg (Germany) DNF Alexander Gonzalez (Colombia) DNF Siarhei Daubniuk (Bielorussia) -35 DNF Kyung Bang Song (Korea) -40 DNF Mark Renshaw (Australia) 3 DNF Prajak Mahawong (Thailand) -20