Posted by Editor on 01/23/10
The Canadian Track Team competing at the final World Cup of 20009-2010 season woke up to a beautiful sunny day in Beijing, a nice change from the smog they arrived in a few days ago. Eight of the ten Canadians were scheduled to race, including Tara Whitten in the individual pursuit.
“I am really looking forward to the pursuit ... it was the first event that I competed in at the World Cup level and it still is my favourite event.” Whitten posted the third fastest time in qualifying, 1.3 seconds behind the second fastest qualifier. Not happy with her performance she came back fighting in the bronze medal match and took off more than a second from her qualifying ride to win her match in a time of 3:40.365. Allison Shanks of New Zealand took home the gold in a time of 3:33.360 and Vilija Sereikaite of Lithuania the silver in 3:41.679.
Monique Sullivan finished 18th in the sprint qualifiers in a time of 11.894, but only the top 16 advanced to the sprint round. Stephanie Roorda and Laura Brown, both competing in their first World Cup scratch races, placed 13th and 16th respectively in their qualifying heats, narrowly missing a start in the final.
The men’s team sprint team of Travis Smith, Joseph Veloce, and Stephane Cossette performed well with a ninth place finish and time of 45.652. Coach Richard Wooles believes they can shave off 0.3 or more seconds with some more practice and technical adjustments and that they can place in the top-10 at Worlds.
Zach Bell, who finished fourth at the last World Cup in Cali and second last year in Beijing in the points race, was aiming for the highest step on the podium. He won points in three of the sprints, and gained points for lapping the field in the first half of the race. With about 25 laps to go he seized an opportunity to lap the field again and won the race one lap ahead of everyone else.
“It felt great to finally crack this nut I have been working on for five years. I went in with a plan to be at the sharp end of the race the whole time, not to be leading the whole time but to always be in striking distance. Then when opportunities to score came I was supposed to take them and that’s what I did.”
Coach Richard Wooles was pleased with what he saw on the first day of racing “Zach’s first World Cup win in the points race is showing progression and the men’s team sprint showed areas of improvement. We are still mostly a development team and this is the time to figure out what works for the athletes' preparation heading in to the next two seasons, which will count towards Olympic qualifying. Some of the athletes may have gone too hard in training in LA last week and learning how to adapt to a 16 hour time change and jet leg is important too.”
Zach Bell stood on top of the podium for the second time in two days to sing the Canadian national anthem. Bell, of Watson Lake, Yukon, who was ranked ninth in the world in the scratch race last year, rode an aggressive race. Having only raced in one international scratch race this year, he was sitting 135th in the world ranking and knew he would have to place in the top four in order to qualify for the World Championships at the end of March, but he wouldn’t be happy unless he finished on the podium. He rode a tactically strong race and powered to the front when needed to rev it up and cross the finish line first, gaining a gold medal and most likely a berth at Worlds.
There are over 300 competitors at the Beijing World Cup and the event with perhaps the stiffest competition was the men’s Keirin. Coach Richard Wooles claimed that all the heats were strong and “could be World or Olympic final groupings.”
Travis Smith, of Calgary, Alberta, was one of the strongest competitors at the last round of the World Cup, and was looking to make better tactical decisions here and sharpen his racing senses. After breaking his hip in this event almost three years ago, this is the first season that Travis has shown a return to his pre-crash speed and power, as well as mental confidence. Smith finished fourth in round one and was relegated in the repechage, to finish in 21st place. His focus will now be on the Commonwealth Games in October and looking forward to the 2012 Olympics.
Allan Leparskas, from London, Ontario, who represented Canada at the Junior World Championships last August, made his World Cup debut in the Kilo and finished in 22nd place with a very respectable time of 1:06.981. Monique Sullivan competed in the 500 meters with a time of 36.111 for 18th place. The Calgarian will be looking for a top 8 finish in the Keirin on the last day of racing.
Tara Whitten, from Edmonton, Alberta, who won a bronze medal on Day 1 in the individual pursuit, won her qualifying heat in the points race to advance to the final. She racked up points in the third and fifth points laps for a total of 5 points and was tied for fifth place going in to the final sprint. Her attempts at gaining more points were not successful and she crossed the finish line 15th, ending up 8th overall.
The final day of racing will get under way tonight at 9:00 pm EST and the Canadian Women’s Team Pursuit team have a shot at a medal after winning gold at the last World Cup. Canadians will also be racing in the following events:
Men’s Sprint: Joseph Veloce (ON) and Stephane Cossette (QUE)
Women’s Team Pursuit: Tara Whitten (AB), Laura Brown (AB), Stephanie Roorda (AB)
Women’s Keirin: Monique Sullivan (AB)
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