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World Track Championships - CM
Melbourne, Australia, May 26-30, 2004
Women's 10 km Scratch Race
Gonzales Perez wins Cuba's first world championship
By Karen Forman in Melbourne
Cuban rider Yoanka Gonzalez Perez became the first Cuban to ever win a senior world championship on the track when she dashed away at the bell and crossed the finish line four bike lengths clear of her rivals to take the gold medal in the women's 40-lap scratch race in Melbourne today.
The 28 year old had ridden tactically buried in the top third of the field throughout the race, saving precious energy, marking attacks and staying well clear of two crashes which occurred in the final laps of an event where none of the riders wanted to stick their front wheel out for much further than a half lap.
Perez said the pace hadn't been difficult at all and that she felt "very good" at the finish.
"A medal was an objective for me coming here," she said. "The plan was to close to the front and then with 10 laps to go move to the front."
She said she had heard both crashes (the first involved Mexican Belem Guerrero Mendez and Korean Sung Eun Gu, the second Australian Rochelle Gilmore and Spaniard Gema Pascual Torrecilla) but had kept out of danger by being close to the front of the field.
"The pace was easy, it was a short race, I felt good. This is my first gold medal. Last year I was third in the point race and I wanted to do well in the points race this time too, but I did not. I was tired at the start and missing intelligence and strength."
Perez has been riding for 14 years and says while it is difficult to ride in Cuba, a developing country, her greatest wish is for an Olympic medal.
"I am still trying to comprehend that I have won the gold medal and can now go to the Olympics. It is a present direct from God."
How it panned out
New Zealand's new world individual pursuit champion Sarah Ulmer was the first to go to the front, taking the field out of the rolling start and onto the first lap. Mexican Belem Guerrero Mendez was prominent close by but not yet willing to move into the wind.
German Hanka Kupfernagel attacked in the back straight and increased the pace but there was no breakaway. By the fourth lap Ulmer was again setting the pace on front, her rivals dipping and diving behind her to avoid going to the front.
Canadian Mandy Poitras attacked on the fifth lap, closely marked by Kupfernagel, then on the sixth lap 2003 champion Olga Slusareva of Russia led the field up the bank and the pace slowed considerably.
Dutch rider Adrie Visser, Slyusareva and Australian Rochelle Gilmore rode three-a-breast high on the track during the seventh lap and then finally, Slyusareva did a complete turn on the front and it started to look a bit more like a race.
Slyusareva set the pace for the next few laps, but the speed was very moderate. It started to look like a sprint event rather than a scratch race, with all riders watching each other, waiting for a move than never really came.
Kupfernagel attacked off the banking with 24 to go chased down by Slyusareva and American rider Rebecca Quinn. Gilmore reacted swiftly, jumping on to their wheels.
With 25 to go, Gilmore was at the front but obviously not keep to expend too much energy. She waited for Greek rider Kyriaki Kostantinidiou to come by, blended into the pack and the pace slowed up again.
Nobody wanted to do any work at all. Ulmer was by this time riding at the back.
Kupfernagel attacked with 23 to go and was marked by Slyusareva and Gilmore, obviously very keen for a gold medal after two years of silver.
Guerrero Mendez attacked off the front of the bunch with 18 laps to go but Gilmore was quickly there to stop her getting too far away.
The field finally split albeit momentarily with 12 laps to go with Italian Giorgia Bronzini attacked with some speed, but soon the leaders sat up and the pace slowed up again.
Guerrero Mendez and Korean rider Sung Eun Gu crashed with four to go and the pace increased as the finish line drew closer. Czech Lada Kozlikova led out with Columbian Maria Luisa Calle.
With the pace hotting up and a bunch sprint finish inevitable, Gilmore lost her dream of a medal when the Spanish rider knocked her, bringing both riders heavily to the ground. Gilmore suffered a shoulder injury and was taken to Epworth hospital for x-rays on the advice of event and team doctors.
The Cuban led out at the bell and was barely challenged, getting four bike lengths ahead within seconds and crossing the line a clear winner from Poitras and Slyusareva, with American rider Becky Quinn in fourth.
Crash-fest takes its toll
The crash mid-way through the race took out Sung Eun Gu (Korea) and pre-race favourite Belem Guerrero Mendez (Mexico), while another with only a few laps to go saw Rochelle Gilmore (Australia) and Gema Pascual Torrecilla (Spain) tumble down the banking, with Gilmore taken away on a stretcher to hospital for precautionary scans and a suspected broken collarbone.
1 Yoanka Gonzalez Perez (Cuba) 2 Mandy Poitras (Canada) 3 Olga Slyusareva (Russia) 4 Rebecca Quinn (USA) 5 Maria Luisa Calle (Colombia) 6 Kyriaki Kostantinidiou (Greece) 7 Juliette Vandekerckhove (France) 8 Giorgia Bronzini (Italy) 9 Lada Kozlikova (Czech Republic) 10 Adrie Visser (Netherlands) 11 Hanka Kupfernagel (Germany) 12 Sarah Ulmer (New Zealand) 13 Lyudmyla Vypyraylo (Ukraine) DNF Rochelle Gilmore (Australia) DNF Gema Pascual Torrecilla (Spain) DNF Sung Eun Gu (Korea) DNF Belem Guerrero Mendez (Mexico)
3 Rochelle Gilmore (Australia) 10 Mandy Poitras (Canada) 15 Maria Luisa Calle (Colombia) 17 Yoanka Gonzalez Perez (Cuba) 18 Lada Kozlikova (Czech Republic) 19 Gema Pascual Torrecilla (Spain) 22 Juliette Vandekerckhove (France) 26 Hanka Kupfernagel (Germany) 30 Kyriaki Kostantinidiou (Greece) 35 Giorgia Bronzini (Italy) 39 Sung Eun Gu (Korea) 45 Belem Guerrero Mendez (Mexico) 47 Adrie Visser (Netherlands) 49 Sarah Ulmer (New Zealand) 54 Olga Slyusareva (Russia) 60 Lyudmyla Vypyraylo (Ukraine) 64 Rebecca Quinn (USA)