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Track World Cup 07-08 Round 3 - CDM
Los Angeles, California, January 18-20, 2008
By Laura Weislo in Los Angeles
Heading into round three of the UCI Track World Cup, the hunt for Olympic qualifications is heating up, and the Los Angeles Home Depot Center velodrome will host more than 400 racers who will vie for points over three days. The World Cup has been breaking registration records all season after it was announced that automatic Olympic qualifications would be granted to the series winners of each event at the end of the World Cup, and the US round is no different.
With a tight point spread across the top ten places awarded in each event, attendance and consistent performances at each World Cup will be key to winning the automatic bid to the Beijing Games. Of course, with seven Olympic events for men and only three for women, the competition will be even more intense for the women's sprint, individual pursuit and points race.
In the sprint, reigning World Champion Victoria Pendleton has had little luck getting the better of the current World Cup leader, Natallia Tsylinskaya (Belarus). Tsylinskaya eliminated the British rider in Sydney in the quarter finals, before being eliminated herself by Aussie Anna Meares. Newcomer Willy Kanis, a Dutch BMX champion, surprised everyone to get the better of Meares in the final. Pendleton found her speed in Beijing, qualifying fastest and hitting the finals against Tsylinskaya only to be defeated in two rounds, but had better luck in the keirin, winning in Sydney and now leads the World Cup in that event.
Tsylinskaya leads the sprint standings with 20 points to Kanis and Meares' 17, but it remains to be seen who will come to Los Angeles seeking points and who will save the jet lag and hedge their bets on the next round in Copenhagen.
In the women's pursuit, Australian Katie Mactier is currently undefeated after Beijing and Sydney, but defending World Champion and California resident Sarah Hammer has made great strides toward gaining top form after suffering from a back injury this summer. She qualified third in Beijing, yet went on to ride to a faster time in the final than gold medallist Katie Mactier for the bronze. Hammer is currently fourth in the World Cup behind Meares, Lithuanian Vilija Sereikaite (silver in Sydney) and Swiss rider Karin Thürig.
Rebecca Quinn of USA will head into her home World Cup as UCI leader in the points race, having been one of the few riders to score points both in Sydney and Beijing. Her fourth and fifth places earned 13 points, giving her a slim one-point lead over Beijing winner Marianne Vos and Sydney winner Giorgia Bronzini.
The LA World Cup will also be the site of the third women's team pursuit (the first two rounds won by Russia and Ukraine). USA will be keen to put the talents of Hammer to good use to move up into the rankings in this event. In the women's team sprint, the Dutch team have been undefeated, and hold a six-point lead over France, while the World Champion British have been noticeably absent.
The men's events will be a battle for team points, with the undefeated British Team Pursuit squad likely missing Los Angeles, leaving the door open for second placed New Zealand to take the lead. The Kiwis will try on a new pursuit team in California, pulling out highly ranked Marc Ryan in order to add more depth to its standings.
The men's team sprint is another tight race, with the Aussie professional team Toshiba, winners from Sydney, leading by one point over the Dutch team, which won in Beijing. The German RadNet.de and British teams are tied for third, ahead of the two French teams tied for fourth, Cofidis and the national team.
The team sprint standings belie the strength of the French sprinters, who stack the top of the individual sprint rankings. Cofidis' Mikhaël Bourgain leads the list with 22 points after his win in Sydney and a silver behind Dutch strong-man Theo Bos in Beijing. Bourgain's team-mate Kevin Sireau sits second overall, while World Champion Theo Bos is languishing in fourth behind Scotsman Chris Hoy after skipping the sprint in Sydney.
Hoy has done well to place himself at the top of the keirin rankings after going two for two in the previous World Cup rounds. He leads Frenchman Arnaud Tornant and Ross Edgar by 14 points.
The other hotly contested races will be the mass-start events where every point counts as most of the standings are separated by razor-thin margins. In the scratch race, Roger Kluge of Germany leads by one point over Argentinean Walter Perez, but Mike Friedman, winner from Beijing, will have the hometown advantage to try and move up the rungs.
The points race sees the Australian Cameron Meyer, who made breakaways in both Sydney and Beijing, on top by one point ahead of Great Britain's Chris Newton. Kiwi Greg Henderson, currently in third, will fly to LA to contest the points race, then head back to Australia for the Tour Down Under.
The final event of the World Cup in Los Angeles could prove to be the icing on the cake, as the Madison teams will face a desperate battle to qualify for the Olympic Games. The Spaniards lead the way by two points over German team Focus, while previous World Cup winners the Netherlands and France are tied for third. Sitting in the wings, waiting to pounce on any of the closely ranked pairs in the top five are Belgium, USA and even Poland, all who could takeover the World Cup lead with a win in LA.
The Nations' points are as important as the individual events, and the Dutch have consistently been putting riders into the top ten over the past two rounds. From its sprinters, to the women's mass-start events, to the Madison, the riders from this small country have risen to the challenge, leading with 165 points over France with 147. Great Britain, who will only send a small squad to LA, are third with 116.
With a record number of riders and racers from 40 countries, the Los Angeles World Cup will be bigger than ever. The importance of this third year event has been helped along by the Olympic year, but a strong community of track racers and fans will fill the stands and show the world that track racing is alive and well in the USA.