By Mark Zalewski and Kirsten Robbins
Canada's Gilbert wins men's road race while American men focus on track
Road and track competitors from North and South America came together for the Pan-American Championships in Valencia, Venezuela, May 21-27. Cyclingnews' looks at how the North American racers fared in the Continental Championship road and track events, where invitations to the World Championships and UCI points were up for grabs.
The US and Canadian men's teams had an apparent difference in focus for the Pan-American Championships, with the US sending men only for the track racing and the Canadians sending a men's team with road strength. The results certainly reflected this with Canada's Martin Gilbert winning the men's road race and Zachary Bell taking second in the time trial. On the track, the US men's team finished with four medals led by Brad Huff, who opened with a gold medal in the omnium and went on to capture another with Colby Pearce in the madison.
Gilbert's win was even more impressive since Canada was at a disadvantage in terms of manpower. "The result is even more satisfying because we had a five-rider Canadian team while other countries fielded as many as ten," said Kris Westwood, high performance program director for the Canadian Cycling Association. "Martin rode well. He capitalized on an opportunity to breakaway and took the lead."
"I wasn't pleased with my track results this week so this is a confidence booster," Gilbert said. "With 25 kilometres to go, I saw an opportunity to catch [the] two riders ahead of me. There was one Venezuelan and a Mexican." Gilbert used the next five kilometers to reel the two leaders by himself. Once there, he put in a final attack and managed to hold on for the win. "I made an attack and I kept the lead in a sprint to the finish." Those other two riders, Manuel Medina (Venezuela) and Carlos Hernandez (Mexico) finished second and third, respectively.
"I hope I'll now be considered for the road racing pool and compete more often in the road events," added Gilbert, who is headed to Philly-week for more races next week.
Westwood was happiest with the road race victory because of what it means for the entire team for the next Olympics. "Martin's victory allows us to earn valuable Olympic qualifying points. I believe it is the first road race victory for Canada at the Pan Am championships. It was more important for us to win here than at the Pan Am Games in July. Those Games are not an Olympic qualifying event."
To read the full feature on the performance of the North American men and women at the Pan-Am championships, click here.