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World Track Championships - CM
Melbourne, Australia, May 26-30, 2004
Men's points race
By Mal Sawford in Melbourne
With 27 riders entered for the men's points race, the UCI made a relatively late decision to run heats over 20km, with only 24 riders (12 from each heat) to move through to contest the final.
The heats were run at 11am over 80 laps, with sprints every 10 laps, with the final scheduled for the evening's session.
Riders were less than impressed with the late change, with Belgian star Matthew Gilmore among the most vocal, branding the change "ridiculous", and complaining that "it wasn't mentioned in the manager's meeting yesterday, and the riders didn't have an opportunity to voice their opinion."
Australia's entrant, Mark Renshaw, found out about the change at 7pm on Tuesday night and described it as "pretty standard of the UCI really. It's not good. Not much notice considering I'd trained hard yesterday expecting to only race tonight."
Neither rider expected to be troubled by the extra distance, with both nominating three time world champion Juan Llaneras as the rider to beat. Although both hoped for podium finished in the points race, their main attention was focused elsewhere - the Madison is Gilmore's main goal, while Renshaw expects to excel as part of the reigning world champion teams pursuit team.
The big shock of the morning was the form of Kam Po Wong. The Hong Kong rider had ridden strongly at the two World Cup events leading up to the World Championships and was expected to do well, but lost contact with the bunch less than 30 laps into the race, after placing in an early sprint.
With Wong out of contention, and the rest of the field virtually guaranteed a place in the final, the bunch stayed together for the majority of the distance. Japanese rider Makoto Iijima sparked the only serious break, opening a half lap lead with Colby Pearce (USA) and defending world champion Franz Stocher (Austria). The trio stayed clear to claim the sprint at 50 laps before the bunch regrouped.
Korean rider Kyung Bang Song eventually took out the heat on a countback after saving his legs early, by claiming the two final sprints. Song is no stranger to Melbourne, having spent time with the Korean national team training and racing locally in January.
American hope Colby Pearce, winner of the points race at the recent Sydney World Cup, qualified comfortably, and was a little more laid back about the late format change, labeling it "a pretty good surprise." When asked about his chances in the final, he was optimistic, saying "I feel OK now, but my legs didn't feel too good in the heat - but they didn't feel too good in the heat at the Sydney World Cup and came good in the final, so hopefully I'll follow that pattern!"
The second heat proved a more attacking affair, with the top eight placed riders all taking laps on the field. Mark Renshaw took the opening sprint, only to see Alexander Gonzalez (Colombia) launch a counter attack, with Juan Esteban Curuchet (Argentina), Matthew Gilmore (Belgium) and Marco Arriagada (Chile) in pursuit.
Former World Champion Juan Llaneras (Spain) did much of the work to bring the bunch back to the leaders, before Arriagada attacked again with Russell Downing (Great Britain). With the leaders 80 meters clear, Alexander Aeschbach (Switzerland) blasted across the gap, and the trio were well on their way to taking a lap.
With the pace off in the field, Aeschbach took the sprint at 50 laps to go, and shortly after latched onto the tail of the field. Siarhei Daubniuk (Bielorussia) jumped clear straight after the regrouping, with Curuchet, Gilmore and Llaneras quick to follow. Kiwi Greg Henderson was last to make contact, with all five riders combining to take a lap on the field. Daubniuk attacked again in the closing stages, and came within 20 meters of taking a second lap alone, before the bunch accelerated away, but his efforts were enough to claim the last two sprints and give him the heat win.
Renshaw and Milton Wynants (Uruguay) were also among the qualifiers, with both riders relying on their sprinting talents to gain points. Wynants showed some amazing bursts off acceleration, while Renshaw seemed to be keeping plenty in reserve for the all important final.
Gilmore was satisfied with his efforts after the heat. "The race unfolded as I expected," he said. "It's confidence building to know you can ride around and take a lap." The Belgo-Aussie planned to head home for a rub and a sleep before returning later in the afternoon for his warm up which "will be different, I won't have to go as deep after the hit out this morning."
Images by Mark Gunter
Qualifying heat 1