The first day of competition of the Track Cycling World Championships in Los Angeles saw nine medals decided in three events: Men's team sprint, Men's points race, and Women's 500m TT. The gold medals were shared between three nations, as Great Britain claimed honours against The Netherlands in the team sprint, Ukraine's Volodymyr Rybin won the points races, and Belarusian Natallia Tsylinskaya beat defending champion Anna Meares (Australia) in the women's 500m TT.
Dutch score two medals
In addition to their silver in the team sprint, the Dutch also came home with a bronze medal in the women's 500m TT, courtesy of Yvonne Hijgenaar. The team sprint saw Theo Bos in action for the first time, joining teammates Tim Veldt and Teun Mulder. Bos wasn't sure about starting in the team sprint, as he wanted to focus on the defense of his individual sprint title. But when the trio won a round of the World Cup last December, and then three weeks ago, Teun Mulder clocked 17.8 seconds for an opening lap, Bos decided to start.
"I only wanted to do the team sprint if we had a serious chance of a medal," said Bos to ANP after the team won silver. His two other teammates were satisfied, but a little disappointed. "If you're in the final, you want to win," said Mulder.
Dutch coach Pieter Pieters commented that his team had nearly 30 years less experience than its British rivals. "I think that with this line up we can stay at the top for years," he said.
Meares takes silver for Australia
Olympic Champion and world record holder, Anna Meares opened the Australian medal account with a silver in the 500 metre time trial. Meares missed out on claiming back to back World Titles by just 14 thousandths of a second, relinquishing her crown to two-time 500m world champion, Natalia Tsylinskaya of Belarus, who rode 34.738 seconds for the distance.
"If you look at it in the sense I lost by 14 thousandths of a second, it's disappointing, but as I said before competition, I haven't prepared myself for this event," said Meares. "It's comforting to know that with little preparation I can run a very, very close second.
"It was on our minds [Meares and coach Martin Barras] to not even ride the time trial but we decided to give it a go and I'm very happy I did because I ended up picking up a World Championships silver medal.
Meares performance bodes well for her chances in the sprint and keirin, the two events on which she is focussing this year. "It's always good to have a hit out before those main events, particularly because I want to be the dominant rider across the board and at the moment I'm only that in the time trial," she said.
Also lining up in the women's sprint will be Meares older sister Kerrie, 22. The 2002 sprint bronze medallist and Commonwealth Games Champion is tackling her first World Championships since a major back injury ruled her out of international competition in early 2004.
Sean Finning claimed seventh in the 40km men's points race, a strong performance in only his second ever international points race. "I haven't had the experience of racing with these guys who are the best in the world and I'm only 20, so hopefully once I develop a bit I'll be able to race the whole thing with them," said Finning who led for much of the racing after he and three others gained a 20 point bonus for lapping the field. Finning was unable to match his more experienced rivals as the 160 lap race wore on. "It's a great result (because) I came here hoping for a top ten and I got that.
"I was struggling with 160 laps to go," he jokingly responded when asked if there was a particular point in the race when he felt he was in trouble. "The whole race was pretty fast and pretty tough so it was a struggle all the way."
The men's points race was won by the Ukraine's Volodymyr Rybin from Greek rider Ioannis Tamouridis and Spain's Juan Llaneras.
Americans make do with 13th
The U.S. National Team was unsuccessful in its medal quest on the opening day, with Colby Pearce (Boulder, Colo.) and Rebecca Conzelman (Cincinnati, Ohio) each placing 13th in their respective events, the points race and the 500m time trial.
Pearce was runner-up in the World Cup points race held in Los Angeles last December, but didn't have the same success this time around, scoring eight points in total. Benefiting from a mid-race attack, Pearce nearly gained a lap on the field, but the pack recognized the potential danger of letting Pearce gain too much ground and reeled him back in. His brief solo escape netted him five points, but a handful or riders who lapped the field earlier in the contest meant that Pearce was out of contention for a medal without lapping the bunch himself.
"I got out there and I had something, but it wasn't world's something," explained Pearce afterwards. There's no hiding in the points race. If you're not absolutely flying, then you're not really doing anything."
Pearce's chance to improve upon his disappointing result today comes on Sunday when he teams with Marty Nothstein (Orefield, Pa.) in the tag-team style madison event. "I've got one more shot," Pearce said. "I know Marty is feeling really good right now. I think he's going as best as he's ever gone in his career as an endurance rider, so I've got that to motivate me."
Becky Conzelman also rode to a 13th place finish in the women's 500 meter time trial. After posting a time of 36.074 seconds, Conzelman was sitting fourth after seven riders. As the competition continued, the pace began to pick up and nine of the eleven remaining competitors surpassed Conzelman's mark.
Visibly disappointed after her performance, Conzelman thought she was on track for a better performance. "I'm really disappointed in my ride tonight," she said. "I've been doing some great times in training."