A week after the end of the 2010 World Track Championships in Copenhagen, trackcycling looks back at the weeks events – the performances, the races, the facilities and the controversies.
It was hard not to be impressed by the Australians in Copenhagen. Six Gold medals – two more than last year and twice the tally of their main rivals, Great Britain – and 10 medals in total. There’s undoubtedly strength in depth – with wins in both Team Pursuit competitions, the Madison and the Women’s Team Sprint, the team took home 13 rainbow jerseys – but five of the six Gold medals came from Cameron Meyer and Anna Meares.
Good though it was to see Meares back in form, Meyer was the star of the Championships with an utterly dominant Points race performance and in mature victory in the Madison in addition to his Team Pursuit Gold.
David Brailsford, as ever, had a unique perspective on the British team’s performance. Although GB did enter Wendy Houvenaghel in the Women’s Individual Pursuit, there were no entries for the Men’s event or for the Madison. Look only at the Olympic events and the picture is rather different, with the Brits taking a medal in all but one and topping a notional ‘Olympic Events Medals Table’.
Brailsford always talks about the four year Olympic cycle and professed himself happy with the team’s progress. There are a couple of areas where there is still work to be done – particularly on the Sprint side, where the recent domination of the sport began.
The Women’s Team Sprint performance was impressive, given Jess Varnish’s age and experience, but is some way from where it needs to be. And the loss of Jamie Staff from the Men’s event needs to be addressed. Jason Kenny looks capable of taking over the role of ‘Man One’, but we expect to see some shuffling of the pack over the next few years to address the problems at ‘Man Two’. We wouldn’t rule out Ross Edgar, but wouldn’t be entirely surprised to see Matt Crampton, Dave Daniell or even some of the younger academy riders – Pete Mitchell, Kian Emadi or John Paul – slotted in for World Cup events. And after years of using Shimano’s obsolete SPD-R pedals, two broken axles raise the question of whether Look’s Keo is up to the job.
And tactically, there is still room for improvement. Brailsford may have complained about Forstemann’s lack of respect, but his long effort against Hoy was a perfectly valid – inspired, even – tactic. And the apparent obsession with riding every heat from the top of the track – personified with Jan van Eijden’s contstant cries of ‘Height!’ from the side of the track, is starting to look a little one dimensional. Van Eijden was arguably the best tactical sprinter of the last 30 years, but we’d like to see more of that experience being transferred to the squad.
As purists, we don’t like British Cycling’s approach to the World Championships. To us, the Worlds is a fundamental pillar of the sport and should be an indication of who the best riders in the world are. The Olympics is a circus that often throws up odd results and means nothing 12 months – let alone 4 years – after the event.
But given the way sport is funded in the UK and the public’s love of the circus, we wouldn’t do it any other way. Given that focus and the level of performance two years out, we’d say that Lottery money still looks like it’s being well spent.
The biggest surprises of the week were the German sprinters – despite taking the Keirin and Kilo titles last year, few outside Germany expected them to win the Team Sprint or to dump Hoy out of the Sprint Competition. Not far behind was Canada – or, specifically, Tara Whitten – punching well above their weight and doubling the number of Track World Championships they’ve won.
Ride of the week was, without question, Lauren Ellis of New Zealand in the Women’s Points Race. Ellis stole the Silver from under Tatsiana Sharakova’s nose. Tara Whitten of Canada had the Gold sewn up – taking a lap, three 2nd places, a 3rd and a win and with 3 laps to go, Sharakova was in the Silver medal position.
A win in the final sprint could have given her the Gold – provided Whitten finished 4th or lower. With that looking unlikely, she chose to stick to Whitten’s shoulder.
Ellis, who was 5 points behind Sharakova, figured out that if she won the final sprint and Sharakova failed to score, she’d take the Silver on countdown – so she went for it. Sharakova didn’t react and crossed the line 17th, a place ahead of Whitten. Ellis stayed away, won the sprint and stole the Silver.
Architecturally, the Ballerup Super Arena owes more to Newport than Manchester or London. It’s a big shed. But it’s a big, well lit shed – with big windows at both ends of the arena and fantastic, very ‘white’ artificial lighting. A photographer’s dream (made something of a nightmare by the organiser’s allocation of photographic locations, but that’s another story).
The geometry of the track is unusual – with long straights and short bends – which made the bunch races interesting and caused the team pursuit squads all sorts of problems with the timing of their changes.
It’s hard to find anyone that thinks the UCI’s decision to replace the Individual Pursuit with the Omnium at the Olympics was a good one. It’s deprived us of seeing the Wiggins-Phinney – or even Thomas-Phinney – showdown we’d been hoping for.
But having made the decision, everyone was desperate for the event to capture the public’s imagination. It didn’t look like it was going to happen – not helped by the fact that the first few events weren’t covered on TV and were held in front of an empty velodrome. But both the Women’s and Men’s events build to an exciting climax, decided on the final event and went to worthy winner.
What will made the Men’s competition, in particular, exciting was that it wasn’t one by a rider that was average at everything – Clancy performing well in four of the five events.
Next year the World Championship will be run to the new Olympic format, including the Elimination race, giving two opportunities to see where the form really is before London. A pursuiter with an exceptional turn of speed looks favourite, though. Cancellara for the Olympic Omnium title, anyone?