Canada had a strong second day in the track competition at the Commonwealth Games, led by Travis Smith's (Calgary, AB) silver medal in the keirin.
Two days ago, Smith thought his best opportunity to medal was in the keirin, saying, "There is that element of chance which means if I can get into the final I have an opportunity there." A combination of skill, tactics and that element of chance led to his second place finish.
After qualifying the long way via the repechage, Smith lined up for the final against the three fancied Australians, Ryan Bayley, Shane Kelly, and Ben Kersten. In the race, Smith hung back initially. "When the (pace) bike pulled off I rushed through to the front and the guys all reacted. This put me on the Aussie train, which was perfect."
Bayley was in front on the final lap, and Smith was following Kersten. "I thought Ben was going to crash...he came down on Shane (Kelly) and I heard their pedals clip but I just kept going."
Kersten crossed the line second with Smith third, so it looked like a bronze medal for Canada. However, upon review Kersten was disqualified, moving Smith up to silver. "In the repechage I was almost disqualified," said Smith. The Kiwi (Adam Stewart) moved up so I shot the hole, but then he came down on me. But after the judges reviewed I was okay.
"My season's been really good so far, and this is the best way to (almost) finish it off. This gives me some confidence for the World's."
Gina Grain (4th) was Canada's best rider in the women's points race, won by Australian Kate Bates. Mandy Poitras made a late surge to finish fifth. "It was so close," said Grain. "To be that close to a medal; I can taste it.
"I fought hard in the first three sprints and was accumulating points, but in the middle part of the race I had a hard time recovering for some laps and couldn't contest the sprints, which hurt me. But, I was able to come back with a strong finish, which brought me back into the game. I needed that last sprint, but I was just a little bit short.
"I'm not disappointed - this is my personal best ride, and I'm happy with the way I rode my race. This is just my seventh international Points Race. Mandy and I worked together well. The strategy was that it was Mandy's job to follow Bates and cover moves. My role was to be aggressive - race hard, but smart.
"I'm still learning something every race, and this makes me really confident for the World's next month."
The men's points race saw Sean Finning score a staggering 137 points after lapping the field five times. Canada's best rider was Zach Bell (8th), who with strong support from Martin Gilbert, was aggressive all race, and was in a couple of field lapping moves. In the latter part of the race he spent over ten laps out in front on his own, getting over half a lap's lead on the pack before they reeled him back in. However, Bell scored maximum points in an intermediate sprint during his time away.
"I surprised myself a little bit. I knew I had good form after the pursuit, but I didn't know if it would translate to a mass start race. Unfortunately, I missed the one really important move; if I had been there I could have been top-five.
"This year, working with Eric (van den Eynde) has been huge; he has picked out my weaknesses and made them better. Plus, I have four times the international racing this year, and it shows. Working with Martin (Gilbert) has taught me so much because he has years of experience - every race he teaches me something.
"This year has already been a big step up - yesterday at the pursuit, for the first time I was thinking, 'Yeah, I can ride with these guys.'"
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