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World Track Championships - CM
Melbourne, Australia, May 26-30, 2004
Meet the new Bos
By Mal Sawford
The four surviving riders in the Men's Sprint faced a minimum of four rides in a short three-hour final session of the 2004 World Championships. For twenty-year-old Dutch sensation Theo Bos, the big question was how the stiffness and bruising sustained in two falls the night before would affect him.
Bos had quickly become a crowd favourite, with his good looks and never say die attitude endearing him to the vocal crowd as be battled on after his crashes. The new allegiances would be sorely tested in the Semis, however, with Bos facing the Australian competitor Ryan Bayley.
Bos was too strong in the first heat, jumping just before the bell with a two-length lead. Bayley tried to pass in the back straight, and the pair ended up shoulder to shoulder round the final bend, with Bos victorious by a wheel. Bayley was disgusted with his efforts, his comments somewhat unsuitable for publication! After a short break while the Women's Scratch Race was held, the pair returned to the track, with Bos exuding confidence. This time Bayley took a two length lead into the final lap, and held off the over confident Dutchman by half a wheel, with his customary bike throw cum wheelie for good measure.
The deciding heat saw Bos move through to the Gold Medal final somewhat controversially, with a protest from the Australian camp denied. Bayley had led out, when Bos came past with speed, and put his front wheel in front of the Australian.
In the final bend, Bos dropped into the sprinter's lane a little prematurely, threatening to take out Bayley's front wheel. Bayley was forced onto the duckboards, and lost momentum and any chance of fighting back, but the formal protest fell on deaf ears.
The match between Damian Zielinski (Poland) and Laurent Gane (France) was more straight forward, with the French rider progressing in straight heats. Gane led out the first heat and held on by half a length, while the second heat saw him ride round the outside in the back straight to line up a meeting with Bos for the World Championship. The Bronze Medal final saw Zielinski take the first heat after Bayley gave the Pole a six length start. Despite two attempts to draw level, Zielinski was too strong for the local.
The second heat was Bayley's turn to lead off, but Zielinski was quick to swoop underneath, taking the lead in the first bend. In a virtual copy of the first heat, Bayley backed off half a dozen lengths, to the dismay of the crowd. This time, however, he had the speed to come over the top, squaring the match by half a length and nearly brining the house down.
The decider saw Bayley draw the starting position, and with a more aggressive ride stay in the lead position until he was ready to sprint. Zielinski briefly drew alongside him entering the final bend, before Bayley kicked again, to win the Bronze Medal. Bayley was pleased with the result, saying, "my goal was to set out to qualify for the Olympics. But in the back of my mind I thought I was a possibility for a medal although I expected it be in the Keirin. The way I handled the sprinting for the whole week has been awesome. I had a slight mishap in the semis but I bounced back".
Bayley's father was in the stands, and the Bronze Medallist was delighted he had made the effort, remarking, "Dad's ninety percent blind, so probably couldn't see much of the race, but I'm so happy he was here for me."
With no local to support in the Gold Medal final, the crowd was firmly behind young Bos. He drew the starting slot in the first heat, and slowly picked up the pace, hitting warp speed at the bell. Gane came back with amazing speed, drawing level in the back straight, before Bos kicked again to take the win. With Gane leading off in the second heat, Bos allowed the French rider a two length lead, and flew from high on the banking, surfing the roar of the appreciative crowd to come around Gane with his right arm in the air, roaring with delight.
Cyclingnews was with Bos' partner and team mate Adrie Visser when he took the win, and the Dutch endurance rider was understandably thrilled for her boyfriend, saying "he deserves it!" After accepting the congratulations of almost person in the track infield, the popular winner was finally ready to talk to the waiting media. "It's unbelievable. I can't believe it. When I came here this morning, so painful, and after a good warm up and a difficult heat with Ryan, I start believing it. After the first race with Gane, I knew I could win to him. I felt confident but when I woke up today I could barely walk. It was so painful, but riding the bike was okay."
Bos attributed his rapid rise to the top to his conservative lifestyle, answering, "Serious training every day. I live for my sport and don't do any crazy things (not too many parties or late nights) during the season." Bos said he knew he had Gane's measure early in the second heat, after "Gane sped up with one lap to go, and he had already given it full gas, so I knew as I was closing the gap, and could feel my speed, and knew it was enough."
Although he would have preferred to win, Gane was satisfied "I aimed to make the Olympics and I've done it. I'm not yet at 100 percent, and that leaves room for improvement." He admitted that on the day he had no answer for Bos' speed "he rode a perfect race, I could do nothing. I had the tactics, I tried to attack but he was stronger than me."
Images by Mark Gunter
Bronze 1 Ryan Bayley (Australia) 10.851 10.729 2 Damian Zielinski (Poland) 10.854 Gold 1 Theo Bos (Netherlands) 10.752 10.715 2 Laurent Gane (France)
Bronze 179 Damian Zielinski (Poland) 8 Ryan Bayley (Australia) Gold 75 Laurent Gane (France) 152 Theo Bos (Netherlands)