Posted by Editoress on 03/19/06
Commonwealth Games Melbourne, Australia
Reports made possible by the support of MAXXIS tires
Track Day 4
Women's Individual Pursui
The track portion of the cycling at the Commonwealth Games ended tonight with the Women's Individual Pursuit, Team Sprint and Scratch Race. Although Canada didn't finish in the medals in the two events they contested (Scratch and Team Sprint), they came extremely close, setting personal bests in each event.
Women's Individual Pursuit
It was easy to predict who would be in the final - the Australian pair of Katie Mactier and Katherin Bates - but harder to say who would take gold and who would get the silver. In the end it was Mactier, who set a new Commonwealth Games record in the qualifying round, with a time of 3:30.290 . Mactier's time broke Sarah Ulmer's (New Zealand) time of 3:32.467, set at the Manchester Games four years ago (Ulmer's world record is still safe, some six seconds faster). Emma Jones (England) took the bronze medal over Alison Shanks (New Zealand).
There was one unusual incident in the qualifying round - Mactier caught Wendy Houvenaghel (England), but the Brit began jockeying for position, forcing Mactier to go by her at least three times. Houvenaghel was disqualified.
This was a race between England and Scotland, with Australia a given for the bronze (which they did win, over New Zealand). The Great Britain team can normally choose between a wealth of talent - Jason Queally, Jamie Staff, Chris Hoy and Craig Maclean. However, at the Commonwealth Games the first two (Queally and Staff) ride for England, while Hoy and Maclean don their kilts for Scotland. The final was too close to call, with Scotland winning by a miniscule 27 thousandths of a second.
In qualifying, the Canadian team of Yannik Morin, Travis Smith and Cam MacKinnon qualified fifth; a heartbreaking 46 thousandths out of the bronze medal final. However, the team was reasonably upbeat about the result.
"It is bittersweet", admitted MacKinnon. "It is the best time we have done, but came up a little short. But it was a very positive ride for us. Yannik crushed his personal best. As a team, we wish we could have made it (to the final), but this is a big boost for us, and tells us that the best is yet to come. There were top teams here, so we are close."
Yannik Morin was also pleased with the outcome. "I didn't expect to go that fast! I'm really happy with my ride - my leadout was pretty good, and we took a big bite out of what we normally do. In the past, I was holding the team back a bit because of lack of experience, but doing the World Cup (in Sydney) and having two weeks of training here before has helped with my experience. Today I made the team stronger."
Mark Cavendish gave the Isle of Man its first Commonwealth cycling gold since the 1960's with his win over Ashley Hutchinson (Australia). The race came down to five riders quickly, after the group managed to lap the field in the first third of the race. Cavendish and Hutchinson were joined by Canada's Zach Bell, James McCallum (Scotland) and Timothy Gudsell (New Zealand) at the front, and once this group had lapped the field, the Australian, Scottish and New Zealand teams did a good job of shutting down any further break attempts.
New Zealand set up a train to support Gudsell in the final laps, but Cavendish, the 2005 Madison world champion, received a the help of a fellow Great Britain rider, Rob Hayles to get to the front and then hold off Hutchinson. Bell couldn't hold the pace of the other leaders in the last few laps, despite the assistance of team mate Martin Gilbert, and finished fifth.
"After the Points Race we talked about how the Scratch Race would probably go. We figured that there was a good chance that something would go away early with the big teams, so we were really attentive for any early moves. there were actually 2 - 3 aggressive moves before the one that stuck, and Martin and I always had someone in them.
The one that got away wasn't so much an attack, but some strong guys going to the front and accelerating away. Initially I missed the move, and I didn't catch up to them until we had a half a lap on the field. I had to expend a lot of energy to get there.
When they picked it up, I just didn't have the gas. That's one of the weakness I still have; after a lot of effort it becomes harder for me to fight for and stay on a wheel. Martin tried to bring me up, but I couldn't do it. It's the first time we've been in that situation at an international event, so it's more to learn.
It was a really good performance for me; I've been getting better all week. I was looking back at my goals for the season, and one was a top-5 in a major event, so that was definitley a big achievement for me."
- In between races, there is a roving camera crew and announcer. Much to our surprise, Yannik suddenly appeared on the big screens around the track, being interviewed about his previous careers - both as a bobsledder (in Salt Lake in 2002) and before that as a bodybuilder! It was revealed that Yannik was actually Mr Natural Universe (meaning amateur, with no "enhancements") in 1998. The women doing the interview somehow convinced Yannik to take his shirt off and do a couple of bodybuilding poses for the cameras and the crowd. We have one shot from the big screen which will go up shortly, and we can safely say that Yannik was the star of the evening entertainment... (Afterwards, Yannik revealed that it was thanks to team mate Travis Smith that this all took place, since he informed the organization about Yannik's past)
- Canada came away from the track with two medals (silver and bronze, both Travis Smith and a number of near-medal performances, including Gina Grain and Mandy Poitras finishing 4th and 5th in the Points Race, fifth in the Team Sprint, Bell's top-10 in the Pursuit and the Points Race and 6th and 8th in the Kilo (MacKinnon and Morin). This is very encouraging for the future.
- Lyne Bessette continues to make encouraging progress after her crash and dislocated shoulder (left) last week. After riding the stationary bike yesterday, she is now riding her regular bike on the road, and has started to practice using time trial bars. At this point there is hope that she could race the time trial on Tuesday. A final decision will be made tomorrow evening.
- Some other track tidbits: local bike shops have been doing lots of business, especially from non-cycling nations such as Kenya and Sierra Leone, who have dropped considerable cash on TT equipment and bikes. At the other end of the scale is the Fiji track team, who did the entire track program with three athletes sharing one bike! After each Kilo, there was a mad scramble to get the next person on the bike. No adjustments, not even a change in saddle height.
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