August 04, 2012 (London, UK) – How many people have Paul McCartney cheering for them on? At the velodrome this evening there he was – Sir Paul – cheering on the fastest women in the world, including three wickedly fast Canadians who made history today, setting a new Canadian record and riding to the bronze medal as Women’s Team Pursuit made its Olympic premier debut.
For local fans Team GB was the story once again at the velodrome on Saturday evening, adding yet another gold medal and setting a new world record to pile on the others they’ve amassed. Dani King, Laura Trott and Joanna Rowsell have been together as a team for the better part of four years.
But for Canadians the story was all about three young women pursuiters – Tara Whitten, Gillian Carleton and Jasmin Glaesser – who came together this past winter and rode their hearts out. They relegated Australia to fourth place and set a new Canadian record to boot with a 3:17.454 in the first round of races. Their final time of 3:17.915 against Australia for bronze place was nearly two seconds faster than the Americans, who took silver in a separate race against Britain in 3:19.727.
Even though USA had a slower time in the final, earlier, in the first round of races they were faster than the Canadians and thus won the right to contest for the gold. Great Britain broke their own world record with a 3:14.051, bettering the 3:15.682 they scored in the first rounds – that’s 55.655 kph.
Team GB’s Trott was rather humble about what they have accomplished. “We didn’t expect a world record in every round,” she said after her race, while King thanked her teammates, “I couldn’t have done it without them. It was incredible.” Rowsell played tribute to the fans. “The crowd was so loud, it was the best.” After the medal ceremony Hey Jude was played as people flowed out into Olympic Park.
Team GB has had an open purse to prepare for these Olympics, and help from star companies like Ferrari to construct the lightest and stiffest of bikes. Canada has had a tiny percentage of those funds available to them, but still prevailed to land on the podium.
“It was very tough” said Glaesser of Vancouver who just turned twenty. “The last two rides (were) back to back but we really wanted this as a group and as a team. As a thank-you for all the people who have helped us the last year to pull this off. To see it happen is just so amazing.”
Former world sprint champion and current national team pursuit coach Tanya Dubnicoff could not have been prouder of the team. When she raced on the track in the 90s there was no women’s team pursuit – but today she coached the Canadian team to an Olympic medal. “We knew it would be a dog fight; we pulled our jerseys over our heads and did it. Back in November Gillian crashed and broke her hip at her first world cup race ever. She was out until January. I can tell you with 100% certainty we knew the bronze medal was within our reach.”
Dubnicoff predicted, “… the Aussies would go out faster, but we did our pace until lap six – and then it was ‘stay on the gas.’ I knew it would be ours at the end.”
Lead rider Tara Whitten stayed for the medal ceremony, but had to leave immediately afterwards in order to recover and prepare for her Omnium event that starts on Monday. Before departing Whitten commented, “It really feels amazing. We had to regroup (from yesterday) and I’m really proud of how the team came together today. We were just fighting the whole way and it’s just amazing to have done it.
“We made a decision to use the energy of the crowd. It’s so loud, you can either let it distract you or feed off that energy. We just did our own ride. It’s been really exciting to see the depth of Canadian track cycling now.”
Carleton and Glaesser – two young and fabulously talented athletes tried to articulate what it felt like to be Olympic medalists. “We knew the Brits were absolutely going to bring their A Team to these Olympics,” said Carleton. “They are just fantastic riders -they’ve done some crazy training!”
When asked how it felt to have the Olympic medal put over her head, Carleton answered “I couldn’t believe it. It was surreal.” When she talked about her injury back in November she responded that it actually “…helped me reflect on what I was going to do for the rest of the year [of 2012]. She thanked her parents who made “the trip across the pond” from Victoria. They are both top level triathletes in their age categories and keep telling her that it is their daughter who inspires them.
Her fiancé Brandon Thompson wasn’t able to make it to London but “…he and tons of racers and tons of friends are all together watching on TV.” Carleton also mentioned the race was so hard, “I had my eyes closed for half of the last three laps.”
After things calmed down Dubnicoff added, “We’ve done just a great job on such a small budget.” Great indeed.
Zach Bell started the morning with a 7th place in the flying 250 metre sprint. His time of 13:406 was just out of the top third, but was less than 3/10s of a second slower than Shane Archbold of New Zealand. As has been the case at these Olympics, the first cyclist was a Team GB rider – Edward Clancy, who was also on the gold medal winning team pursuit team – outclassing the field with a 12:556. No other rider went under 13 seconds.
The points race is one of Bell’s favourite events as it mimics a short but hard criterium. He had two third place finishes, but missed the crucial breaks when Denmark, Germany, Italy, Spain and France jumped the field and lapped the pack. He described himself as “shy” after the race and that was the best description. His lack of aggression meant he ended up 13th.
But he had a better elimination race, finishing 10th, behind Bryan Coquard of France, Elia Viviani of Italy, Edward Clancy of Great Britan, Shane Archbold of New Zealand, Roger Kluge of Germany, and Glenn O’Shea of Australia – all of whom either had faster 250m sprint times or were in the top four more often in the sprints in the points race.
life in the individual pursuit Sunday morning and the Scratch race and then 1-km TT in the afternoon.
At the half-way point Bryan Coquard of France is leading with 10 points; Viviani of Italy has 13; O’Shea of Australia sits at 14, Lasse Norman Hansen of Denmark has 18 points, Roger Kluge of Germany 19, Shane Archbold of New Zealand 23, Walter Fernando Perze of Argentina 28.
“Well, it’s not a good start for me. I’m not really sure why,” said Bell after the day was over. “I felt good coming in. Tomorrow should be a good day for me…the form is there for me in training. I’m going to go home now and recover, come out tomorrow and open it up to do what I can do.”
The men’s Sprint got underway with Jason Kenny (Great Britain) topping the qualifications followed by Gregory Bauge (France) in second and Aussie Shane Perkins in third.
All advanced past the 8th finals but German strongman Robert Forstemann who was fourth fastest was bested by Njisane Nicholas Phillip (Trinidad and Tobago) in their heat and had to fight his way back into contention in the Repechage. No Canadians are competing as the action resumes on Sunday.
Day 3 full results HERE.