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London 2012 Olympic Games Track Day 2 Report, PHOTOS – Audio Interview w/Sullivan

by Laura Robinson

August 03, 2012 (London, UK) – Today was the time for Victoria Pendleton to make up for Britain’s disqualification in the Team Sprint the night before. She was relegated to eighth place after officials ruled Team GB had transitioned to their lead rider too early. Pendleton made sure there was a gold medal 24-hr later when she strategically raced the Keirin final, sprinting from the front against China’s Shuang Gho (silver), Wai Sze Lee of Hong Kong China (bronze).

Clara Sanchez of France was fourth, Pendleton’s nemesis Anna Meares of Australia was a disappointing fifth and Canada’s own Monique Sullivan was 6th, making it into the top six after a brilliant ride in Round 2 that put her second to Pendleton.

Interview w/Monique Sullivan

While there was a score to settle for Pendleton and Gho, (she also faced relegation from gold to silver in the Team Sprint but has never been told why), clearly there are new faces and countries in women’s track racing as two out of the top three came from Asia and Canada placed so highly in this new Olympic event that saw a total of 17 women on the line.

As Pendleton and Meares bid farewell at these last Olympics, new stars are on the horizon. It was a photo finish between Meares and Sullivan for the fifth position and even though Pendleton and Gho fought it out at the front, the field was with them. This is not a timed race. After six laps of the track behind the motorbike, the driver pulls off and cyclists sprint the last two laps.

The line up from the apron out had Pendleton, Meares, Sullivan, Gho, Lee and Sanchez shoulder to shoulder, but as soon as the pace laps started, Meares moved to the back and Sullivan followed. Just as she did in her heat, Sullivan played the patient rider and stayed back there.

“I’m not the strongest rider – so don’t want to be in the front. It’s risky, but hopefully in the future I’ll have the legs to be more assertive. I would have the same tactics, but hopefully not lose that wheel,” she said, referring to the jump she made nearly simultaneously with Meares on the bell lap.

At only 110 pounds, Sullivan was tiny compared to the substantial women she took on. In the end she just wasn’t able to hold the speed as Pendleton and Gho pulled away from the front and Meares went after them.

Pendleton was very happy.“I cannot believe it right now,” she said. “I was like ‘focus, Vic, focus.’ My coach said to me, ‘don’t look to their race, just make your own. When it’s your moment, just go.’ My legs were still good from last night. I really wanted to show what I’ve got. It turned out okay, I guess.”

Guo was the consummate diplomat, saying that even though the UCI have not told her why she was relegated to silver, she has put that evening behind her and raced the best she could.

“There were six riders for three medals – obviously this was very, very important for me. We have had a breakthrough and have tried very, very hard. It seems like it is difficult to get gold, but we speed up our training,” she said, referring to her French coach Daniel Morelon, three-time Olympic champion in the 1960’s and ‘70’s.

Wai Sze Lee also said she has made a breakthrough in her training. “I was very excited. Last year my coach and other people helped me to make progress. We all worked very, very hard. I was quite confident and I believed I could have a medal.”

Both Guo and Lee are good friends with Sullivan. Guo commented, “I know her well – she’s very young and in the Keirin race anything can happen. Even though she didn’t get a medal, she did very well.”

Sullivan couldn’t stop smiling as she spoke with reporters who rushed to get to the velodrome as word of her entry into the final spread through the Canadian contingent. She has made the Keirin her priority. “We’ve been working on this element a long time in training, with my coach Richard Wooles on the motorbike.  It’s been really great because it doesn’t slow down.”

Next up for Sullivan is the sprint commencing Sunday, August 5.

Men’s Team Pursuit: Team GB vs Down Under
Was there ever any question? What a ride Team GB produced to win yet another London gold, averaging 62:180 kph. Edward Clancy, Geraint Thomas, Steven Burke and Peter Kennaugh took it home in a world record time of 3:51.659 against Australia (Jack Bobridge, Glenn O’Shea, Rohan Dennis, Michael Hepburn). The Aussies finished in 3:54.581.

On another evening of packed to the rafters crowds who made it difficult to hear your neighbor even if they screamed, cyclists once again produced some of the most exciting competition of these games. Team GB moved through the heats by breaking their own world record the night before in the qualifier, moving it down to 3:52.499. They shaved nearly a second off that 24 hours later. As has been so often at the World Championships and Olympics, the final pitted Team GB against Australia with New Zealand battling it out for the bronze.

The Kiwis, looking formidable as men in black, took on the Russians and made quick work of their task to put themselves on the podium with a 3:55.952. Russia took 4th in 3:58.282, while Denmark had a down to the wire ride against Spain for 5th place, winning in 4:02.671 to Spain’s 4:02.746.

“Grant Thomas of Team GB commented afterwards, “The amount of work we had to put in since November in Manchester was full-on.” Thomas was ill the week before and it was “hard mentally” to prepare doubting if he could literally pull through for the team.

Meanwhile the Aussies, who have been coming up short in all sports at these Games, were somewhat reserved. “It’s better than Beijing (where they took 4th) but that said, there was only one goal and that was to step on the top of the podium. At the same time silver is a fantastic result, we can’t really complain but we’re still disappointed.” He was also magnanimous to the Brits. “You can’t take anything away from a team that beats you with a world record…massive congratulations to the British.”

New Zealand’s rider Jesse Sergent spoke about taking yet another bronze in this event. “It was an experience in Beijing, but to come here and do it again is definitely pretty special and this time around there was much more pressure. A medal was almost expected so to be able to pull it off like this is good.”

There was no Canadian team in this event.

Women’s Team Pursuit Qualifications
Fast times were the order of the day in the Women’s Team Pursuit debuting at the Games. Canada’s Tara Whitten, Jasmin Glaesser and Gillian Carleton started slowly but picked up speed in second half to set an early strong time of 3:19.816.

The USA was on the money as well with a faster time by 0.410 seconds. Then Australia snuck in between the North Americans just edging the Canucks with 3:19.719.

Locals fans and royalty were treated to a World Record time by Great Britain’s Dani King, Laura Trott, Joanna Rowsell setting the bar even higher with a stunning 3:15.669 breaking their previous record set in Australia.

New Zealand (Lauren Ellis, Jaime Nielson, Alison Shanks) qualified fifth fastest in 3:20.421 and sixth was the Netherlands (Kirsten Wild, Amy Pieters, Ellen van Dijk) in 3:21.602. These results set the stage for Saturday afternoon with the first round heats matching the Netherlands with Germany, the second New Zealand and Belarus, third sees the USA against Australia and fourth Canada against Team GB. The winners of the third and fourth heats advance to the gold-silver medal round. The bronze will be contested by the teams with the two best times from the remaining six teams.

If the clocks were correct in training, Canada is also capable of breaking the world record. If they can put the race of their lives together, they just may be able to beat Team GB for a place in the gold-silver race. With such a fast time in the qualifier, it certainly looks like they will be in a medal round – the colour yet to be determined.

Day 2 full results HERE.

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