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Hyper-aggressive position for the sprint lead-out
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Sarah Hammer (Team Ouch) gets on the front of the break in the women's Omnium points race.
Cyclingnews takes a look at the women who have dominated the headlines
To coincide with International Women's Day, Cyclingnews celebrates the achievements of females who have dominiated their fields in season 2011.
If there's one person assured of a gold medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games it seems to be this phenomenal athlete. Hammer looks to have the women's omnium title, a new event for the XXX Olympiad, wrapped up.
The American described her 2010 season as her "best ever on a bike" and it's only got better with a dominant performance at the Manchester Track World Cup in February, her second-ever Olympic-format omnium.
Hammer wrapped up an impressive omnium series with third in the final event, the 500m time trial. That was her lowest position. Over the two days of competition she won the flying lap, elimination race, 3km individual pursuit and 10km scratch race, a runner-up finish in the 20km points race and third place in the 500m time trial. Hammer took out the endurance event with 9 points, next best was Kirsten Wild of the Netherlands, second with 38 and Malgorzata Wojtyra of Poland third with 42.
"Everyone's going to get better because it's a new event," she said. "Everyone's learning."
"For me, the pursuiting comes naturally but the sprint events are something else," Hammer said. "With my physical make-up the 500m is the most difficult for me. Riding that, and seeing the world record on the board, you think: god, I'm putting this event to shame!
"But I'm having a great amount of fun... But it's still tough: backing up the events, being consistent, and the mental aspect to the omnium is huge."
Two months prior to her Australian road championship win, the 26-year-old was seriously contemplating retirement. "The Commonwealth Games I was happy with - coming fourth in the time trial. I was disappointed with the Worlds, riding just inside the top 20 in the time trial and I was hoping to go better than that," said Rhodes who was without a team at the time. "I just don't like riding around half-arsed and running top 20. It's a hard sport and to not be competitive is not worth it.
"I'm not 'the poor girl who was injured'. It wasn't so much the sympathy but I don't like making up the numbers; to be known as 'the poor girl who got hit by a car', is not what I wanted to be," Rhodes continued.
Those injuries were well documented. In 2005 Rhodes was lying in intensive care after suffering severe injuries in a training accident that involved a car and claimed the life of her friend and team-mate Amy Gillett. She broke several bones in her back and suffered chest injuries; it was unclear whether or not she would live, let alone race again.
Now riding for a new team, Garmin-Cervélo, which will be her racing home for the next two seasons, Rhodes has renewed vigour.
"That offer gave me a renewed interest and that gave me a bit more confidence... I would definitely like to ride the world championships and then the Olympic Games next year but it all depends on what everyone else is doing and if I'm good enough."
US champion Katie Compton (Planet Bike) captured her fifth World Cup win of the season in Hoogerheide, The Netherlands, mid-January. Compton only missed out on the overall for the season only because she hadn't ridden two of the eight events.
"I didn't have a good start and early on my timing was off. For some reason I'm getting good at relaxing during the race and choosing to go when I want to go. Once alone in front I felt good although I made some mistakes during the last lap," Compton told Cyclingnews.
Mistakes aside, it was a powerful performance from the 32-year-old who came back from her slow start to overtake and then make ground on Hanka Kupfernagel (Stevens Racing Team) and Marianne Vos (Nederland Bloeit), her closest rivals for the title, by 20 seconds with only one lap remaining. Her eventual winning margin was 18 seconds for her first win in Hoogerheide, after she "hit a rut wrong."
A week later, Compton was disappointed to finish second behind Vos at the World Championships. There, Compton was arguably the rider who had done most of the work in the race.
"I didn't look back but I didn't want to be popped in the sprint and that's why I kept the pace high," she explained
Compton led the race for two laps but she couldn't shake Vos who only moved away on the last lap with a show of acceleration.
If there's one thing that gets Aussies fired up, it's beating the British; however, beating a ‘Pom' on their home turf and when it's your closest rival is another matter entirely.
It's been a tough road, but Meares appears to have closed the gap on Pendleton in the sprint with the second of her two wins over the Olympic champion in three months at the Manchester Track World Cup event in February. The battle for gold at the London Olympics is sure to be an almighty one.
Meares pipped Pendleton in the semi-finals 2-0 to move into the final where she was pushed to three rides by Shuang Guo of China. In the third leg a tense affair, the Australian seized the initiative on the penultimate lap and then began to press for home approaching the bell lap.
And although Guo responded on the back straight, Meares held her off to claim gold and set up what should be a thrilling contest at the world championships in Holland this month, where Pendleton will be aiming for her fifth sprint title in a row.
"Things have gone so well," said Meares after being presented with her second gold medal of the Manchester World Cup, after the team sprint. "In qualification I was only one one-thousandths of a second off going under 11 seconds, and it was the second fastest time of my entire career.
"I put together some really good racing," continued Meares. "I made a couple of mistakes as well but I was lucky enough to come away with the win."
When it comes to the ultimate goals, the world championships and then the London Olympics, Meares is optimistic.
"I'm confident but I'm not overly confident," she said.
The 2010 Danish MTB cross-country champion has been the dominant performer during the early part of the season of racing. At the opening event in the Cyprus Sunshine Cup in Voroklini racing in a league of her own.
As the defending Cyprus Sunshine Cup champion, Langvad (Easton Rockets) wasn't bothered by her contenders and set off the front soon after the start loop. Former marathon champion Blaza Klemencic (Felt Ötztal X-Bionic) accompanied her initially but was successively dropped by the Dane who went on to win by just over five minutes.
"I didn't change my winter preparation, and I cannot understand why it works like this," said Langvad. "But that shows me that I still can improve as a rider. I'm just happy with this start of the year."
Disaster struck for Langvad at the second event in Afxentia, missing the start by 20 minutes after a misunderstanding by her team manager.
"This accident has taught me a lot," Langvad explained on her website. "First of all, I know, that I have to check up on the most important things. Second, biking isn't everything... I have to keep in mind, that I do it, because I enjoy every small step of it. Third, to forgive instead of blame and last, but not least, to look forward.
"I know, that I was the strongest girl in the race and I know, that I would have won."
Redemption came at the third event in Amathous where Langvad immediately took the lead and rode solo until the end of the race at the ruins of Amathous. She had no problems en route to victory, which she took by one minute.
"I was nervous about how it would go. But at least I was able to show again my current form. I'm very pleased about that.