The first major competition on the brand new Sir Chris Hoy velodrome in Glasgow was the three-day UCI Track World Cup.
We’ve been racing the Wednesday night Track League here since early October, and the Scottish Championships were held a few weeks ago, with the invitational two hour ‘Thunderdrome’ event taking up an afternoon and covered live on Radio Scotland, but this was something else.
The track was an interesting mix of experienced riders, team staff, media, journalists and officials who had seen it all before and knew their jobs well, going about things with an almost detached efficiency, and grandstands full of spectators – many of whom were youngsters and families new to cycling – cheering each and every rider’s victory, whilst ensuring the biggest roars were for kept the home nation riders.
Local officials and volunteers spoke of having to pinch themselves; it was still a bit surreal that we were in such a terrific venue and it was all happening in Scotland.
Many of the world’s best track riders were in attendance, as some nations also included young talent in their lineups, either to backfill for injuries or to provide them with experience of high-level racing and give an early look at the track which will be venue for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Great Britain had mixed results in the first two sessions held on day one; whilst their women won both team events, the Pursuit and Sprint, the men fared less well, the Team Sprinters taking a silver medal but the Team Pursuiters crashing out of the competition whilst looking like they were heading for a ride in the final.
The GB Women Team Pursuiters, with World and Olympic champions Laura Trott and Dani King together with World Junior Time Trial champion Elinor Barker shook off a somewhat untidy qualifying ride to take victory over the Australian team of Ashlee Ankudinoff, Amy Cure and Melissa Hoskins in the final, whilst the Women Team Sprinters Becky James and Jess Varnish overpowered the Spanish duo of Tania Calvo and Helena Casas to take gold.
Straight after victory in the Team Sprint, Jess Varnish got back on the bike to attempt a second gold medal of the day, this time in the Women’s 500m Time Trial, but that was clearly an effort too far, and she ended up with a still fine sixth place, the two lap race being won by Belarusian 2011 World champion Olga Panarina who was nearly two-tenths of a second quicker than Germany’s Kristina Vogel.
The Men’s Team Pursuit was won by a youthful Danish team (Casper Folsach, Lasse Norman Hansen, Mathias Nielsen and Rasmus Quaade), catching the fractured German team (Lucas Liss, Henning Bommel, Theo Reinhardt and Kersten Thiele) in the final. The Germans had lost a man just after halfway and with a kilometer still to go they dropped a second rider, forcing the other two to wait, while the Danish team, still with a full complement thundered past.
The young GB Men’s Team Pursuit Team (Owain Doull, Joe Kelly, Sam Harrison and Andy Tennant) had a disastrous qualifying; leading the standings with their split times until with just over a kilometer to go Kelly unintentionally accelerated out of turn two (not the only rider to get caught out by the track’s unique geometry) and rode into the real wheel of Doull and came down, bringing Harrison and Tennant to a crashing halt as well.
With GB’s Ed Clancy switching from the Team Pursuit to the Team Sprint, and taking up Sir Chris’ normal position of third man behind Olympic champions Philip Hindes and Jason Kenny, it was going to be an interesting race against the German trio of Rene Enders, Robert Forstemann and Stefan Boetticher in the final, but Ender’s amazing opening lap put them too far ahead for the British men to come back.
Irish rider Martyn Irvine rode an attacking Scratch Race and still had enough power to come away with a superb silver medal in the bunch finish – his first at this level of competition, behind experienced Six Day Swiss rider Tristan Marguet.
Unai Elorriaga of Spain led the Men’s Omnium after three of the six events, with a win in the Elimination and a second place in the Points Race.