August 06, 2012 (London, UK) – The Whitten family gathered outside the red cedar panels outside the velodrome wearing their “Tara Whitten Gold” t-shirts. Proud father David Whitten – a Masters mountain biker in his own right – stands the proudest. Edmonton to London is a 7-hour time zone change, which was easy to handle if you’re here to watch Tara Whitten. The first three events of the Omnium – the 250 metre flying sprint; the Points race and the Elimination race would commence within the hour.
The Points race was where Whitten gained. She quickly took 2nd by a tire width in the first sprint as Australia’s Edmondson just snuck by. Whitten missed the break when Trott, Cuba’s Marlies Garcia Mejias, China’s Li Huang, Spain’s Dorronsoro Olaberria, Poland’s Malgorzata Wojtyra and Edmondson gained a lap on the field.
The final tally put Wojtyra in first with 34 points, Belarus’s Tatsiana Sharakova and Whitten with equal amount of points at 28 in second and third, Belgium’s Jolien D’Hoore in 4th and Hammer in 5th. Overall, this moved Whitten into 3rd overall.
Whitten’s first half of the Elimination race less than an hour later was aggressive. She rode from the front as the last rider over the line is eliminated on each bell lap. It’s a reverse race in many ways, and Whitten was pulling the field around with her. But just before Sprint 10, after more than half the field had been eliminated, she found herself boxed in at the back and the last over the line.
There were seven riders still left on the track, but were any of them right behind or ahead of her in the standings? Absolutely. Team GB’s Laura Trott, who won the Elimination race in a deadly sprint against Hammer, moved into first place overall. Hammer had the same amount of points (12) and was given second place. Australia’s Annette Edmondson was third with 17, while Whitten now sits in fourth with 18, but Belgium’s D’Hoore is right behind her with 20. Wojtyra of Poland took fifth place so far with 24.
“I think I can go back up on the rankings [tomorrow]. I have a really good Pursuit. So, I’m looking forward to that and then we’ll see with the Scratch race and the 500 what my strategy will be.”
Men’s Sprint: Here We Go Again
The IOC only allowed countries to send one cyclist per individual track event so the reigning Olympic champion, Team GB’s Sir Christopher Hoy, was unable to defend his title as Jason Kenny beat him in the nation’s selection race. Kenny took the silver in Beijing and now it was his golden turn, taking the sprint two straight against long-time rival Gregory Bauge of France. Bauge went in as the 2012 world champion and as the silver medalist in the team sprint from the 2008 Olympics – beaten there by Team GB.
“It’s amazing,” said Kenny, of his 2008 silver and 2012 gold. “I hadn’t thought about it until the last lap; then it dawned on me. It was quite the battle to get here with Chris. I didn’t want to mess that one up. I was really pleased. I just did it for the team. It’s pretty amazing.”
Kenny had kind words for Bauge. “I am really pleased about that. We’re really close. At the worlds and the year before, he’s been the slightly faster rider. Three days ago I qualified a little bit quicker, and again the race has come down to that. I like racing against Bauge. He’s a real pro rider and it always makes for some pretty exciting racing. I am really pleased.”
Bauge, meanwhile, was candid about being a French athlete in a partisan crowd. “It’s never easy, but it’s part of the parameters of the race. I’m not going to hide it. For about two or three days there has been a crazy atmosphere here that can break you. I have no regrets because I think I had a good race and after all, it’s sport.”
Like many athletes at these Games who did not perform up to their expectation of themselves, Bauge made an apology. “I’m disappointed for myself and those who have encouraged me. Kisses to the French people, the people in Guadeloupe and at my friends. This makes another medal for France, so in terms of the total, I think we are okay.”
Next up for these gentlemen is the Keirin in Tuesday’s competition. While Canada did not qualify anyone for the sprint, Joseph Veloce joins the sprinters in the Keirin with the first round starting at 10:00 a.m.
Full results HERE.