By Gerard Knapp
In his first competitive event for the season, dual Athens Olympic gold medallist Ryan Bayley crashed heavily and has broken two ribs, placing his track World Cup and World Championships campaigns in doubt. Bayley was the star attraction at the Rockhampton Cup on Wheels, a major track racing carnival held in the Queensland centre. Racing in a heat of the wheelrace, Bayley crashed into fallen rider Mario Mazza, who'd earlier hit the deck after touching wheels with another rider. Bayley was behind this crash with two other riders; two went up the track to avoid the crash, while Bayley tried to go under but hit Mazza as he was sliding down the embankment of the outdoor concrete track.
"It was either I hit him or I hit the fence," Bayley told Cyclingnews of his options to avoid an seemingly unavoidable crash. Instead of slamming into the fence, Bayley attempted to go under the fallen rider but Mazza slid down the track and Bayley clipped his bike, launching himself over the 'bars, landing heavily on his shoulder and then having his bike slam into his back.
Bayley told Cyclingnews he expects it's unlikely he will be able to compete in the Sydney round of the UCI Track World Cup, and "I'll pretty much have nothing (condition) by the time of the World's". Bayley also expects it's unlikely he will be racing at the Australian track national championships. "Well, I've got two broken ribs, my shoulder's pretty stuffed and my hip's pretty sore," Bayley said before boarding a flight to Adelaide, where he is meant to start a training camp with other members of Australia's track squad at the Australian Institute of Sport. Now, he will go back to the AIS for a full assessment of his injuries.
When asked how Australia's national sprint track coach, Martin Barras, reacted, Bayley said: "He wasn't too happy. 'Marv' is always concerned about us racing at these carnivals, but it's what we do," he said of the leading track riders taking part in the regional carnivals that are held throughout Australia in the southern hemisphere summer.
At his first serious meeting, Bayley said he "didn't feel too bad, actually. I felt I had the speed there but not the endurance. I felt I was going pretty quick for this time of year. I thought everything was going pretty well; now, everything's broken. But, you get that - it's bike racing."
Earlier, Bayley had found the going tough in his return to serious racing, with Rockhampton local Grant Irwin holding him out in the final of the keirin, one of the events he won in Athens. The major event for the men, the Rockhampton Wheelrace, was taken out by Hayden Josefski, while the women's wheelrace - said to be the richest event for women in Australia - was a clean sweep by Rockhampton riders, with Olympic gold medallist Anna Meares winning front of her sister, Kerrie, with Alex Bright third and Katie Smith in fourth.