- Article published:
- March 22, 2011, 20:56
- Jane Aubrey
Australian feels she's earned the right to challenge for title
Anna Meares has her eyes firmly on winning her first ever sprint world championship in her 10th attempt but with career-best form in the event, it's a position not without sacrifice.
Asked by Australian media just what her program will be at the 2011 UCI Track World Championships in Apeldoorn, The Netherlands, Meares takes a breath before her measured response: "I'm going to ride three events: the team sprint, the individual sprint and the keirin."
The 500m time trial, an event in which the 27-year-old has twice been World Champion (2004, 2007) is off the list.
"That's been a very hard decision to come to and I think it took Gary [Cycling Australia Track Sprint Coach Gary West] a good couple of months to build up the courage to bring to my attention," said Meares, and you believe her. She will tell you it's a decision based on "need" rather than want.
There was a defining moment for the darling of the Australian track at last year's world championships in Copenhagen. It was day four of competition and fighting it out for the women's sprint crown were Shuang Guo (China) and Victoria Pendleton (Great Britain). Meares and Simona Krupeckaite (Lithuania) were left scrapping for bronze with the latter winning 2-0.
Meares puts the end result down to one thing and that was rider schedules. Pendleton and Guo didn't take on the time trial on the first day of competition whereas the Australian and Krupeckaite had. It was all in the legs.
"I know that as hard as it has been for me to give up the time trial this year, I need to do it if I want to be the best chance possible at winning the [sprint] title," Meares said.
"I don't want to not ride it... it's been really difficult but the compromise with Gary was that if I miss this year, I don't care where the 500 falls in the calendar of events in next year's world titles in Melbourne – I will be riding it. If the event before the sprint final and I'm in the sprint final - I'll be riding it. This year for me it is about achieving something that I've never achieved."
Two wins does not equal a rainbow jersey
Meares may have beaten arch-rival Pendleton in the sprint twice already this season however, the Australian says the world championship result is no forgone conclusion.
"Look if Vicky lost every race between now and the Olympics she would still be the biggest threat in the field," she said bluntly. "You can not by any means lose any respect for the fight and drive that she brings to this event.
When it comes to her own standing in the sprint, Meares is brutally honest.
"Coming out of the Manchester World Cup I was pretty excited which turned into nervousness because I guess I've never been in a position where I've been challenging for a sprint world title," she said. "I've been close on occasions; other times I've not even been in the contest."
For Meares, her current position as a genuine challenger for the sprint crown is something she's earned. While she says she feels relaxed about what lays ahead, Meares is also excited. The 2011 World Championships are where everything is coming together for her - physically as well as mentally.
"I go back to 2002, 2003; I wasn't even in the contest," she said. "2004 was almost a surprise to me let alone everyone else in the world that I made it through to the final and I got silver. 2005 I was a bronze medallist. 2006 I was top eight. 2007 again bronze medallist. 2008 I was injured. 2009 I didn't race. 2010 I was fourth so, for a long time I've been around the mark but I've never ever won the damn thing.
"Gary said to me you really have to work very hard, sometimes for a very long time to be ready to be challenging for the title, let alone winning it. Challenging and winning it are on two totally different levels in my eyes."
- Article published:
- March 23, 2011, 01:24
- Laura Weislo
Australian keen to defend points race, Madison titles
Last year, Australia's Cameron Meyer walked away from the UCI Track World Championships with three gold medals and their three corresponding rainbow jerseys: for the points race, Madison and team pursuit.
This year, the 23-year-old will attempt to win his third consecutive points race title, adding to the one taken in Poland in 2009, and to do so he has dropped the team pursuit from his racing schedule.
In its place, Meyer will compete in the men's scratch race on the opening day of racing in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, so he'll still have a chance to equal his record of last season, but he admits doing so will be a tall order.
"I decided a few weeks ago not to do the team pursuit in order to focus on the points race and the Madison. It could be my last opportunity to ride them before the Olympic Games," Meyer told Cyclingnews.
Meyer has repeatedly demonstrated the qualities needed to be successful in the points race: excellent fitness, the ability to endure repeated red-line efforts and a talent at performing arithmetic while in oxygen debt. But he admits the scratch race takes an added element: luck.
"The scratch race is a bit of a lottery. You could hold the same race 10 times and you might have 10 different winners. You have to have a little bit of luck on your side, and make the right move at the right time. It's a lot shorter race, and a lot faster and punchier.
"I haven't ridden it at a world championship, but I'm looking forward to the challenge. I did the scratch race at Commonwealth Games and had an adequate result there - I won the gold. Hopefully I can take a bit of what I did there and apply it here at the world championships."
Winning the points race will also be a big ask, considering Meyer will be a marked man in the race, and will have to rely on both guile and brute strength in order to win.
"It's going to be hard, obviously going into the race as a favorite. I've done the work, so I just have to be confident going in there knowing that I've done the work.
"I do a lot of studying up on my opposition and the races - the points score has always been my speciality. I do a lot of homework on the tactics of my opponents - what their tactics could be and how they ride the race so when I'm out there I can know what to do.
"It's always a complicated race. I've got a bit of experience - this is my fifth world championships, in addition to the Commonwealth Games and Olympics. It's always a different race when you go out there, but you have to have confidence that you've done the training so you can go and go again. I have confidence that I can go in a lot of moves, do a lot of sprints and take laps."
Meyer expects his main challenger to be Dutchman Peter Schep, a world champion in the points race in 2006 and a home town favorite.
"He was also the silver medalist behind me last year, and now he's in front of his home crowd. He's going to want to knock me off that dais, and especially with the home crowd support he'll be quite good."
The field might look a bit different than last year, since the race overlaps with the new long-form omnium.
"Some of the guys I'm used to going up against might be riding the omnium, so it could make for a new field with guys I don't know - like Tom Scully, [Ioannis] Tamouridis from Greece... they'll be going well."
The final chance for gold, the Madison, will again be a team effort with Leigh Howard, Meyer's gold-medal partner of last year. The pair put in an impressive performance earlier this month on their home soil, and are expected to be strong candidates to repeat.
"We used the Bendigo Madison as lead up - and we rode really well there and took three laps to win the race. We're going in as defending champions. It's going to be hard because we'll be targeted and followed a bit going in as favourites.
"We've got a few runs on the boards and we know each other really well. We've got confidence we've done the right preparation and training. The result two weeks ago gave us the assurance that we're on the right track. Hopefully on Sunday we can give it a nudge."
Like many of the endurance riders on the track, Meyer also balances his road career with the Garmin-Cervélo team, with which he will race the Giro d'Italia in May. He expects to further reduce his road schedule next year, with the world championships and Olympics taking up a big chunk of the season, before focusing more on the road in the future.
"Next year the world championship is in Melbourne, so that will be a big event for us. We'll want to perform well for our home crowd - there aren't many chances to do Worlds in your own country.
As for delaying a full-time push at the road, Meyer said he feels he has time to do that in the future while enjoying his time on the track. "I'm only 23 and have plenty of years to go to the road after. At the present time I'm doing well on the track, and pretty well on the road, too."
- Article published:
- March 23, 2011, 03:02
- Cycling News
3-days of West Flanders winner targeting pursuits
Just a few weeks after taking his first professional victory with the RadioShack team by winning the prologue and overall of the 3-days of West Flanders, New Zealander Jesse Sergent has abandoned his brakes and derailleurs for his first love at the track world championships.
Speaking to Cyclingnews after his final training session prior to the most important day of the championships for the Kiwi men - that of the team pursuit, Sergent thinks the quick switch back to track racing from his road aspirations is going smoothly.
It's been a whirlwind since his win in Belgium - in the 16 days since he's celebrated his first pro win, he's flown halfway around the world for a week of training on the track in New Zealand, and then endured the long trip back to the Netherlands.
That kind of jet lag might not be the most ideal preparation, but Sergent said he's coming around just in time.
"I knew [the travel] was coming, so I just tried to prepare myself for it," he said. "I seem to have adjusted pretty well here, probably because it's the time zone I had been staying in."
Despite having a short amount of time to revive his track technique, Sergent is optimistic about his and his team's chances.
"We got in some pretty solid sessions on the track - definitely not as many as I had going into last year's worlds, but I think it's still enough. The technique for the team pursuit came back pretty quickly. It's more the standing starts and power that takes a bit longer, but it's all up there now, just in time for tomorrow."
At the young age of 22, Sergent is one of the leaders of the Kiwi team along with Sam Bewley (23), Peter Latham (26) and Marc Ryan (28). What he lacks in age, he more than makes up for in speed and experience, having been part of the New Zealand bronze medal teams at the Beijing Olympic Games (with Ryan, Bewley and Hayden Roulston) and the past two world championships.
Sergent said his main focus remains the team pursuit, since it is an Olympic event, but that he will also compete in the individual pursuit as his only other event.
"Going forward to next year, there's a lot of focus on the team pursuit, but for me the individual pursuit is a little bit more of an unknown. In previous years I've done trials [leading into worlds] over 3-4k and known what kinds of times I'm capable of. This year I haven't done any of that, so I'll be relying on my previous times.
"We'll have to see - they changed the programme too, the individual pursuit is now after the team pursuit, so I'm not sure what it I will feel like having a team pursuit in my legs.
"I think having the done all the road racing means my recovery is pretty good, but we'll have to see."
Sergent predicts a close race between the top four teams - Australia, Great Britain, New Zealand and, mostly likely, Russia. "The top four teams will be close, and it's all going to come down to the little things on the day. It will be pretty awesome if we can make the gold medal ride off. Even if we don't and we ride a fast time or the fastest time we've ridden, we'll still be happy and be able to take something good out of it."
In the individual pursuit, Sergent will face world record holder Jack Bobridge, who became the first rider to crack Chris Boardman's previously considered untouchable 4:11 mark.
"I haven't really thought of trying to match him," said Sergent. "A 4:10 ride is really amazing. Most people don't realize how fast that is - my best is 4:15 and going 5 seconds faster is like another planet. Hats off to him for doing that. I'm sure it's a day he'll never forget riding that fast.
"I'd like to think I'll be up there. I'd be disappointed not to make one of the medal ride-offs. I'll just have to give it my best."
The world championships commence on Wednesday with the men's team pursuit and team sprint, men's scratch race, women's points race and women's 500m time trial.
- Article published:
- March 24, 2011, 02:37
- Jane Aubrey
Russians making gains ahead of critical 2012
There may be 491 days until the London 2012 Olympic Games begin, and another world championship competition to be run and won however back-to-back team pursuit world champions Australia know the pressure to perform is only going to increase.
The foursome of Jack Bobridge, 21, Rohan Dennis, 20, Michael Hepburn, 19, and debutant Luke Durbridge, 19, were the only team of the competition to ride under four minutes for the four kilometre, 16 lap event.
Clocking a time of 3:57.832, the Australians defeated the Russians (4:02.229) in the gold medal ride off.
Hepburn explained following the win that all eyes were on the Australians as defending champions.
"There was a lot of pressure and a lot of teams looking at us as the top team here," Hepburn explained. "Some class competition out there but the track was a little bit slower than we expected and we were a little bit surprised by some of the times in qualifying but in saying that we knew we had to be right on our game and not let our ball down."
And the Russian team might just be the team to watch heading into the big events next year with the Australian men's track endurance coach, Ian McKenzie coach saying he was happy for the added competition.
"There's no doubt the Russians are coming," said McKenzie. "Our plan was to ride to schedule on a 3.58 to the 2km mark and then see where we were against them but they hit the front (on lap six) so we started racing then.
"I'd much rather have a race than qualifying, just going for a time. To get a good time is rewarding but I reckon it's all about the racing for me, for the spectators and the riders enjoy it more too."
Durbridge claims maiden elite world title
Western Australia's Luke Durbridge, a three-time world champion as a junior was left feeling overwhelmed by his first senior title.
"I'm lost for words a little bit and it will take a while to sink in," he explained. "I trained with these guys all last year and the year before and it's so good to come here and experience it. It keeps you hungry for the next year and I'm really happy and glad I could win it with these guys."
Durbridge had fallen just short of earning a place on last year's team for the world championships in Copenhagen so the result went some of the way to making up for the disappointment felt with his omission.
"Durbridge's made a huge step from last year and I'm very pleased with the way he went in both rides today but the big bonus for me is now he'll be even hungrier to make the Olympic team and the more the better," said McKenzie.
- Article published:
- March 24, 2011, 17:42
- Laura Weislo
Progress despite gold medal drought, says Brailsford
The British track cycling team, once so dominant in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympic Games, may be in the midst of a minor gold medal drought, but British cycling's performance manager David Brailsford said he is not worried despite losing his main male endurance rider, Ed Clancy.
Clancy dropped out of the 2011 UCI Track Cycling World Championships after a botched attempt at coming back from an illness. Clancy started the men's team pursuit qualifying yesterday but it was quickly apparent he was not up to the task.
"Clancy had a virus and didn't train last week, and it was a bit of a gamble bringing him here," Brailsford told Cyclingnews. "We rested him up, but obviously he didn't feel great, and it was clear he wasn't riding like Ed Clancy. So we decided to withdraw him."
The team scrambled to substitute him with 18-year-old Sam Harrison, who helped to salvage the night and gain bronze with the men's pursuit team. Harrison will now skip today's individual pursuit in order to focus on the omnium, where he will replace Clancy, who won the event in the Cali World Cup in December.
Brailsford indicated he was putting no pressure on his young rider Harrison, saying he would ride for experience in the event. "We can only do what we can do, there's no point in worrying about it."
In the lead up to it's near total domination of the Beijing Games, Great Britain scored seven gold medals at the 2007 worlds in Mallorca, but in five events so far, the British have come away only with bronze in the men's team sprint and pursuit.
While the lacklustre performance may be worrying to British fans, Brailsford said he won't be disappointed unless the team fails to perform in its home Games next summer.
"The biggest disappointment would be if we didn't perform in London. It's all a stepping stone for London. Right now we have the opportunity to run some young riders. It would be nice if we picked up some gold, but if someone's ill, they're ill, there's nothing you can do."
In 2007, the team looked like a well-oiled machine, with Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton performing as expected, while the top riders participated in the men's endurance events. They then went on to steamroll the Beijing Games, claiming seven gold medals.
In Apeldoorn, the focus still appears to be on looking to the next generation to give a boost to the men's and women's endurance teams. Olympic gold medalists Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas chose to focus on the road, and the British came to the Netherlands with a group of young and somewhat inexperienced riders.
Brailsford said they are still "tinkering around" with the team. "We've got two young girls who are in their first world championships in team pursuit and Sam, who's 18. We want to perform, but I think we still have a lot to give.
"The worlds are important - you have to recognize that. London 2012 is massively important, but Rio's the next thing and we have a new generation coming up. Life goes on, you can't take your eye off that ball that's for sure."
He echoed the words of star sprinter Hoy, who after taking bronze in the men's team sprint hailed the squad's progress.
"We closed the gap a little to the Germans and French. ['08 Olympic team member] Jamie [Staff]'s moved on, but we've started closing the gap so that's good news for us. We're progressing, chipping away. From our point of view there are quite a lot of positives to take out of that."
When asked where he thought his team might break the gold rush drought, Brailsford refused to speculate.
"We'll see how we go. We're in for medal chances in quite a few events, but have to see how we go on the day."
- Article published:
- March 25, 2011, 02:08
- Jane Aubrey
The fine balancing act of a winning combination
It cannot be easy being Kaarle McCulloch. In team sprint partner Anna Meares, she has one of the best athletes the world of track cycling has ever seen. But also, in Meares, she has a fierce rival.
"It's no secret to anybody that I want to win and that she wants to win," McCulloch told Cyclingnews of the delicate balancing act. "I think that that is the reason why we were both so competitive on the international level because we've got each other to train with and we ride against each other so much and push each other to our limits. We both know that so we're not going to let that affect our relationship or our riding in any way because we know that having each other around is only to the benefit to our personal careers."
McCulloch and Meares claimed their third-straight team sprint world title on Thursday evening with a start-to-finish performance over Great Britain's Jessica Vernish and Victoria Pendleton in the Apeldoorn velodrome. Meares lead the way out of the gate with a solid first lap of 18.688 which was half a second quicker than Varnish. McCulloch added another tenth of a second to the lead in the next half lap and hung on against Pendleton's barnstorming final 125 metres to seal the victory.
McCulloch, 23, is still a relative new-comer to the sport having first tried middle distance running and then triathlon on her way to finding her calling on the bike at age 17. In 2006, McCulloch made her first Australian team and at the Junior World Championships she won bronze in the 500m time trial and claimed two fourth places in the sprint and keirin.
So far, her lone elite Australian titles in the keirin, sprint, and time trial have all come when Meares wasn't competing. At February's national titles, Meares took out both the kierin and the sprint. McCulloch finished fourth and second respectively handling each result with grace. Tough given one of the first questions asked by media is more often than not, about Meares.
"When I race anybody individually I try not to focus on the individual," McCulloch explains. "I'm just basically going out and riding against someone who's just an opponent and that's how I try and treat racing against Anna."
The day is coming when McCulloch will get the better of Meares individually, and she knows it. Meares, 27, is quick to acknowledge her younger partner's talent. "She is only young," she said. "I think that she is going to be an individual world champion, for sure."
When Meares describes her younger teammate and rival, she's frank, calling McCulloch "focussed", "determined" and "committed."
"Where Kaarle is fantastic, this is only her fourth world championship competition and she hasn't been in the sport that long, this is a girl who can hang on to an 18.7 lap and finish without dying in the second lap. She's challenging Vicky Pendleton and Simona Krupeckaite in the times she's putting out in second wheel and as much as some people say, ‘she's got a great starter,' if I didn't have a great second wheel rider we wouldn't even be in the contest for medals let alone top eight or 10 in the world.
"I think that's what's so unique with us that when it comes to team sprint, we are so committed to working together as a team that we're able to flick a switch when it comes to individual events but we don't put each other down much at all in the individual events because we know we need to keep that morale high for the teams sprint. So it's a unique balance that we've spent years working out together so that support level carries through all events not just in the team sprint."
It was however Meares' comment at the 2011 national championships that perhaps gave the greatest insight into this finely balanced, racing relationship.
"There's only been one spot at the Olympics and I've filled that in the past two occasions and I know that I've been what stopped her trying to achieve her goal of going to the Olympics such is the case with Kaarle..." Meares explained. "As much as I feel for her when I'm off the track, I can't feel that way when I'm on the track otherwise I'm going to be the one that's losing the races and the shoe's on the other foot.
"I'm hoping that I'm pissing Kaarle off because by the time I retire she's going to be one hard girl to beat."
- Article published:
- March 26, 2011, 21:45
- Laura Weislo
Meares, Freiberg, Perkins double gold tally
The 2011 UCI Track Cycling World Championships have belonged to the nation of Australia, but no more so than on day four when the country took home three gold medals and one silver in the course of the afternoon.
When Shane Perkins took out the men's keirin final in a clear victory over Olympic champion Chris Hoy, it was sweet revenge for the country's male sprinters who had been shut out in the team and individual sprints.
Then the day got even better for the Aussies when Anna Meares claimed gold in the women's individual sprint in an emotional victory over Simona Krupeckaite (Lithuania).
Before the night was over, the team would add another gold in the men's omnium when Michael Freiberg followed up his surge into the rankings lead in the scratch race with a solid kilometre time trial, holding a five-point buffer to top New Zealand's Shane Archbold.
"I got so excited when Anna won, she's been trying to get this for so long and she's now got the form and she just destroyed it tonight," said Freiberg, "I got really excited watching Shane. They're two of the best athletes in the world, and to see them from my home country manage to come away with the world title it pushed me even further - I'm so happy to be able to finish it off."
Finally, Katherine Bates, who made her comeback from a debilitating hip injury over the past year, claimed silver to Dutch rider Marianne Vos in the women's scratch race.
"It's funny - there are two factors: I watched the Aussies do a hat trick and I tell you what, I've been at a lot of world titles and it's pretty bloody exciting. Everybody said to me, right-o, it's your turn now. In my mind, I thought it was possible.
"I've waited four years to stand on a podium again, and this is fantastic. I'll definitely walk away with a positive feeling and fresh motivation."
The results built upon gold medals already enjoyed by the men's team pursuiters, the women's team sprinters and Jack Bobridge in the men's individual pursuit as well as Cameron Meyer's silver in the men's points race and Michael Hepburn's bronze in the individual pursuit.
With one day of racing remaining, Australia leads the gold medal tally with six, while France and Belarus each have two. In total, Australia and Great Britain are tied with nine each - Great Britain has one gold in the women's team pursuit, three silver and five bronze.
- Article published:
- March 29, 2011, 07:00
- Jane Aubrey
Brailsford says team's participation in Melbourne is "questionable"
While satisfied with Team Great Britain's performance in Apeldoorn, high performance director Dave Brailsford says that it's a possibility that a contingent won't make the trip to Melbourne, Australia for next year's world championships.
"Whether we need to go all the way across the world just a few months before London is questionable," said Brailsford on BBC Sport regarding the proximity of the world championships to the Olympic Games.
Team Great Britain finished fourth on the world championship medal tally, with one gold, three silver and five bronze medals won. Australia topped the tally with eight gold, two silvers and one bronze medal. Six of Australia's gold medals came from Olympic events.
"From our point of view that [performance] is satisfactory," Brailsford explained.
"We've raised the bar so high that when we don't win gold, people imagine there is a problem. The team is quietly confident.
"It might not be the gold medals everyone is used to us winning but we are on the podium and we are only small margins away from moving forward.
"We will put our foot down over the next 15 months and hopefully we'll be okay by the time we get to London."
Brailsford suggested that there was too much emphasis being played on the fact that Australia had been the team to beat Great Britain in some of the key events, namely the women's sprint and team sprint, women's kierin and men's keirin.
"If you took the emotion out of the situation, it's irrelevant," he said. "If it was different nations would we be saying the same?
The last two world championships have been an indication that Australia is on the way back in major competition, having walked away from the Beijing Olympic Games with just one silver medal from the entire cycling program, won by Anna Meares in the sprint.
At the 2010 world championships, Australia topped the medal table with a tally of six gold, two silver and two bronze medals from the 19 events contested in Copenhagen.
One Australian that won't agree is Kaarle McCulloch.
"Post-world championships last year the endurance coach Ian McKenzie sat us down and he said to us, ‘we might have won the battle here but the war is not over', and London is what we're aiming for and we're all out to get gold in London," said dual team sprint world champion prior to her third title with Meares was won in Apeldoorn.
With Great Britain's headline acts, Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton both missing out on gold this time around, Brailsford even went so far as to say that with a ‘home' Olympics looming, the lure of rainbow bands wasn't as great as it once had been.
"If you ask most mature athletes, who have won a number of world and Olympic titles there gets a point where you need a big event to get you going.
"No disrespect to the World Championships here in Apeldoorn but for her [Vicky] and Chris they need an event of the stature of the Olympic Games to get them pushing forward 100%."