Monday, February 13, 2012

Day 4 at the Para-Cycling Track Worlds...

The fourth and final day of the UCI Para-Cycling Track World Championships, held at the Los Angeles Velodrome, aka Velo Sports Center, saw medals and World Champion jerseys awarded in the mixed team sprint, tandem sprints for both men and women, and an exhibition scratch race for both the women and men. In addition to those finals there were quarter-final race, semi-finals, and finals races for 5th thru 6th, and 7th thru 8th places in the sprints. In other words there was a lot going on. 

I touched on the different atmosphere you experience at international calibre races such as this, during the first day of racing. The final day was an even stronger experience. Walking  up to the velodrome building the first thing I saw was the Canadian team posing for a group portrait outside the Center. During the racing, I looked around the stands and saw members of the South African team to the left, while on my right was a large contingent from the Czech Republic team. On a filming platform behind me were both Irish and English team members recording the races; and, of course, across the way was that impressive wall of British supporters with all their flags and banners (British racers tallied 8 gold medals, 7 silver and 2 bronze, set a new British record and a new world record). French was often being spoken, both by the announcer and by supporters in the stands.

Anyway back to the racing. I arrived in time for the afternoon races (and a few laps of warm-up) and was not disappointed by the intensity of the action that took place on the boards. Lets start with sprints - the women's competition came down to a contest between the Irish pair of Catherine Walsh and Francine Meehan (pilot), and the German tandem of Handrup and Heiny. At the end it was the Irish pair who proved to be the fastest of the two to claim the bronze. Meanwhile the gold medal heats were a contest between Great Britain and Australia, with the Aussie pair of Felicity Johnson and Stephanie Morton out-powering Aileen McGlynn and Helen Scott. In case you were wondering, and I am sure some may not be familiar, these finals involve a best of three heats to determine the victors. They are the type of race where the riders may go very slowly at first, perhaps even reaching a standstill, as the racers gauge one another, testing, and then put everything into one massive sprint effort. On the men's side, Anthony Kappes and Craig McLean of England out-dueled Dutchmen Rinne Oost and Patrick Bos, for gold and the rainbow striped jersey. The tandem from Spain, Jose Enrique Porto Lareo and Jose Antonio Villanueva Trinidad, came away from the day with bronze for their efforts.

Medals and jerseys were also awarded for the mixed team sprint competition on this final day. In this race the Chinese trio of Xie, Ji, and Wang out-paced the British riders, Kenny, Storey, and Cundy. The Spanish riders, Gutierrez Berenguel, Granados Alkorta, and Cabello Llamas will be bringing home bronze, as they defeated the American trio of Cheseboro, Schuble, and Juarez for the third spot on the podium. This was a nice ending for the Spanish team, as one of their riders went down hard while getting up to speed. The race was restarted, and the Spanish rider, with bandaged knee, gritted it out for the victory. In the championship race, the Chinese riders each let out a yell in turn at the start, psyching themselves up, and then rode impressively strong for the win.

As I mentioned, the third competition of the day, were exhibition scratch races for both men and women. While the other races during the day involved two pairs, or two individuals on the track at a time, scratch races are mass starts with many racers on the track competing against one another at the same time. Certain powerhouse teams dominate the other competitions so that you rarely have an opportunity to watch racers from other nations in action. Scratch races give you that opportunity. These races are fast paced all the way through and often involve faster riders lapping the field; there is a lot of surging in these races, with groups of racers forming and reforming, attempting to get away. In the women's scratch race, Greta Neimanas claimed gold for the United States, ahead of Fiona Southorn of New Zealand, and Susan Powell of Austraila. For the men, it was Yehor Dementyev of the Ukraine winning gold, Andrea Tarlao of Italy took silver, and Michael Gallagher of Australia, bronze. Interestingly, the men's race got off way too fast, with riders surging away from the field, the officials delayed the start for a number of laps calling for the riders to bunch up (there is usually a neutral lap, and all riders must be bunched closely together before the race can officially start). Finally one of the Czech riders took it upon himself to take command and held everyone back so that the race could get the go ahead to commence. There are other little things to look for as well - later, one of the Americans in the race was warned to grip the bar drops rather than the tops.

There was some fantastic racing going on all day; I took so many photos that after cutting out those too blurred to be of any use, I still had 600 pics. I narrowed those down to the best 160, and that is what you will see below. Unfortunately it seems to play in reverse order, so if you want to view chronologically correct, click on this link instead.

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