The Track World Champs came and went, and whilst criticising the UCI is the fashion their decision to slot the Worlds into the Cobbled Classics season has to be questioned.
The original thought process was that it was to accommodate the six day riders coming off the end of their season — and road men before their season got underway.
In reality, by the time the Six Days finish, most of the protagonists just want a holiday and as for roadmen riding — March and April are the two busiest months of the year for them.
The UCI should move the Worlds back to their original late summer slot — but of course, that won’t happen.
They were complicit in the decision to axe not just the kilometre but also the pursuit, points and Madison from the Olympic programme.
The loss of the kilometre was bad enough — a beautiful, pure event.
But to allow the pursuit to be discarded defies belief; one can’t imagine athletics sitting back and allowing the 1,500 or 5,000 metres getting the chop.
However, what VeloVeritas thinks won’t cut much ice in Aigle — all we can do is make our little contribution to what happened at the Worlds.
And whilst it’s also the fashion to slag Cyclingnews.com, it was the only site that did it’s bit on Worlds coverage — sites that I’m ‘close to’ weren’t much interested.
My editors [not Martin here on VR though!] were much more keen on the ‘kassein and bergs’ than hardwood and bankings.
Here’s what multiple US track champion Giddeon Massie had to say about the sprint tournament:
You rode 10:576 in qualifying — were you happy with that?
“Happy, but not satisfied.
“It shows improvement on the year for me, which is good but the 200m TT is something I’ve struggled with a bit, so I always try and take the positives and continue to press forward.”
Do you use a bigger gear for qualifying than in the match sprints?
“Yes I do.
“Our sport has very clearly gone in the direction of big gears. This is not something that a rider can do overnight; it takes time and commitment to the task.”
The rider who was 40th was under 11 seconds – a very high standard.
“But I think the World Cups are often even more competitive than the World Championships with sprint qualifying cut-off times of 10.3 & 10.4.
“It’s a different game than it was even five years ago.”
Why is the Apeldoorn track so ‘sticky?’
“The Omnisport is a unique track in a spectacular facility; s,omething you would expect from a country that hosts multiple mega spectator Six-Days with many talented Dutch riders.
“But the track itself has very shallow transitions, with wide turns, then couple that with a higher air pressure, I think it suits a stronger and more powerful rider and the times reflected that.”
What has Bauge got the others don’t?
“It’s clear he has a huge amount of confidence, and that plays an important role in any athlete.
“You feel it, and other riders sense it. It’s as much a mental game as a physical one.
“He’s now won the last three sprint world titles.
“I can’t speak for how he trains or how hungry he will remain; that’s the challenge when you’re at the top.”
Bourgain – 10:043 to qualify fastest, but no medal – how come?
“Racing and going fast are very different skills.
“At the 2009 World Championships, Malaysia’s Azizul Awang qualified 12th and finished second.
“I’m sure Michael has been racing during his time away, but it’s difficult to maintain the sharpness that is necessary to compete at this level having been away that long.
“You have to continually hone these skills.”
What are you taking away from these Worlds with you?
“The Worlds are always a reminder of what it takes to be a podium level athlete, whether you win or not; it’s a reality check and a reminder.
“It is an opportunity to put our training into action.
“I’m looking at the positives as I always do, and continue to believe strongly that we have not reached our limits as a team.
“We now turn our focus toward the Pan Am Championships at the end of April — we’ll take it one day at a time, one race at a time, never losing sight of the goal.”
Chris Hoy, he’s still the man; and only a fool would say that he can’t win in London.
But what’s interesting for me is that whilst we’re constantly told by Dave Brailsford how infrequently track riders can ‘peak’ (bearing in mind I’ve actually been present when Contador has won two Grand Tours within months of each other) winner Shane Perkins was happily racing every night down at the Grenoble six back in October – as were all the French sprinters including sprint king, Baugé.
In fact, Baugé: was also riding the sprint tournament at the Rotterdam six in January — and having a lot of fun in the process.
Rather than read my rantings, here’s what US ‘man one,’ Dean Tracey had to say:
46.190 for 12th – happy?
“No, even with the obviously slow track in mind I’m not happy.
“No one wants to see times go up like that from race to race, even if it is a slower track.
“I think we were capable of a bit more; it just didn’t all come together.
“The two false starts certainly didn’t help much and by the third run I think my nerves were a bit shot, so that’s obviously something I need to work on.”
45.017 at the Manchester World Cup, back one second — they say Apeldoorn is a ‘sticky’ track?
“Apeldoorn is definitely not a fast track.
“You can see it in the 200 times and the pursuit times.
“I mean, Bobridge in the pursuit, 10 seconds back from a time he did in February; that’s pretty significant.
“The Team Sprint times were interesting too; we did 45.0 for 11th in Manchester and 46.1 for 12th here, so everyone’s times were back a bit.”
Did you ride to a schedule?
“No I wouldn’t say that.
“Our coach Jamie Staff is a very smart analyst, but he’s also careful not to over-think things before the race.
“If he has benchmarks for us on race day he’s not really cluttering our heads with them before go.
“We just went out to do the best ride we could do.”
How much difference has having Jamie Staff on board made to things?
“The difference is night and day; the motivation among the top US sprinters is unbelievable now.
“I think we all know that if there’s one guy who can get us where we want to go it’s Jamie; and we just have to do the work.
“I think the important thing is that in Jamie we don’t just have a good coach – we really have an advocate that will look out for us.
“He’s been there, done that, so I think he’s a bit more tuned in to his riders and how they’re doing than many other coaches are.”
Do you experiment with starting order – what was the line up at Apeldoorn?
“Yeah, it’s a constant process; all the teams do, it depends on who’s riding well and what they’re going to be stronger at.
“In our case it can also be a question of who’s available, since there’s a couple of us that have full time jobs to deal with.
“We haven’t had the same three riders in the same spots all season;: Giddeon and I have been in the team for everything so far, but he’s been moved from man two to man three which seems to be a good step.
“I’ve been in man one all season because it’s a pretty specific skill set and rider type.
“Unless you’re Baugé: or Kenny it’s tough to transfer between starter and the other positions.”
It’s sudden death in the team sprint – do you think the format is fair?
“Yeah definitely. I think that’s one of my favourite things about the team sprint, how absolute it is.
“No protests or nit-picky officials deciding your day.
“There aren’t really many variables, especially in man one.
“That gate will release you at exactly the same as that Olympic champion across the track, so you either do the time or you don’t.”
What will you take away from the Worlds to work on?
“Well, for me it was a good lesson in coping with imperfect conditions; I was getting sick, I had a terrible day of starts the session before we raced, we had two false starts and the track wasn’t all that fast, so I had a lot working against me.
“But I need to be able to just shake stuff off and be a bit more consistent – I think that’s something we can improve on as a team, our consistency.
“I mean the speed stuff is pretty obvious but at our best we’re still over a second off the top guys, so we need to work on everything, really.”
Kilometre time trial
I just managed to catch the finale of the kilo, live on TV — a great race with the crowd on its feet as home boy Mulder scorched the boards to go up, early on eventual winner Nimke (Germany). He cracked but clung on for silver — heroic stuff.
GB? We didn’t bother to ride.
I know that it’s all about ‘funding’ and ‘non-Olympic’ events ‘don’t count,’ but it’s frustrating and depressing to see one of the sport’s finest races cast aside by the nation that produced Queally and Hoy.
And back to the ‘peaking’ argument — winner Nimke rode the sprints and time trial every night at the Berlin six day at the end of January.
But I’m ranting again, sorry!
In Part II of our look at the 2011 Track Worlds we’ll talk ‘Omnium’ and hear from the man who’s become a surprise presence in the event — New Zealander Shane Archbold.