By Laura Weislo in Los Angeles, California
Australian Anna Meares was at the Home Depot Center velodrome in Los Angeles on Saturday for the women's 500m time trial. Instead of being on the bike, however, the Olympic gold medallist and World Champion in the event was sitting on the sidelines watching as Cuban Lisandra Guerra Rodriquez came within a half second of her world record on her way to gold. On a relatively slow track like the one in California, the time of 33.955 was quite remarkable.
"I think I was more nervous watching than racing!" Meares exclaimed. Meares set the record in Mallorca last year, pounding out an astounding 33.588, but is skipping the event this year to focus on the sprint. She only raced the time trial in Sydney in order to wear her rainbow jersey in front of her home crowd. Since the 500m time trial is no longer an Olympic event, if the gold medal winner from Athens wants to add to her trophy case in Beijing, it will have to be in the match sprint.
"I've had to put all my focus into becoming a match sprinter, which has been really hard," Meares explained. The 24 year-old had the unfortunate luck to be paired against World Cup leader Natalia Tsylinskaya in the 1/8 final in Los Angeles, and then was eliminated in the B quarterfinal by German Dana Glöss.
The road to becoming a sprinter hasn't been all bad, as Meares took silver to Dutch woman Willy Kanis in Sydney, and then fourth in Beijing after being sent to the bronze medal final by World Champion Victoria Pendleton in Beijing. But Meares is still angry that her signature event, the 500, has been removed from the Olympic Games to make room for BMX events.
"It was the only event that truly selected the best rider on the day," Meares said. She is still undecided as to whether she will race the 500 at the World Championships in Manchester.
Clearly watching Guerra come close to her record was a bit difficult for the Queenslander, but she was philosophical in light of her decision. "Records were made to be broken, and I've broken a few," she said. Upon hearing that Guerra named her as the inspiration to take up track racing, Meares was flattered. "That's nice; you don't always hear something like that from a competitor."
Read full coverage of the UCI Track World Cup in Los Angeles.