Friday, April 6, 2012

Character Assassination.

Day Three – Evening Session

Gene and I go walking again. Outside a cold wind has come through, blowing a lot of the humidity out of the air. The doors of the arena are all open, so we hope that the temperature inside has come down a little bit. Chatting about this with Paulie Parker, he opines that if this does occur, they’ll simply close the doors and turn on the heating again. A hot arena is a fast arena, comfort be damned. 

Cari cools down.

When we walk back in the temperature is not noticeably different. My friend Cari Higgins is warming up on the rollers wearing an ice-vest. I ask her mechanic if I can have one, and he offers to sell it to me at the going rate – two thousand dollars. I politely decline. Walking further though the pit areas I stop to take a photo of the Japanese Mech gluing on tubulars. Apparently every day of the meet he has worn a different colour apron – one for each of the rainbow stripes. That’s pretty cute. Then one of the Japanese coaches grabs my tattooed arm, and before I know it the mech has pulled out some tools for a real-life comparison. 

This guy thought my tattoos were hilarious.

Word travels round the twitterverse – did I just write that, really? – that the first race of the evening will be Meares v Pendleton. Sure, it’s best of three, and they’ll string it out a little bit, but holy hell, where do you go from there? All week the media has been about these two! It’s like being MC Hammer and opening your set with U Can’t Touch This.

It’s the first sold out night of the weekend, and Hisense is quickly filling up. The program tonight is sprints, sprints and more sprints, with a couple of omnium events and the women’s scratch race thrown in. And in the first damn heat, Meares v Pendleton, with the heat simmering away all week, Pendleton comes off her line in the final sprint, gets hooked on Meares and hits the deck. It’s getting hot in here. I may take off all my clothes. The second heat is a much more sedate affair, with Lithuania’s Krupeckaite accounting for the Ukraine’s Shulika without much trouble.


The men have more sprints now, and first up will be Bauge v Boetticher. Bauge looks so relaxed out there. He gives Boetticher the lane, doesn’t fret, lets the German lead it out, then rolls him at the end. Chris Hoy and Mr Calves Forstemann roll around and sprint, but Hoy has it all the way. Kenny and Sireau argue over who makes the best pommes frites, with Kenny winning the argument. Perko tells Bourgain that it’s a French stick, not a baguette and the crowd adores him for it. 


Kevin Sireau takes his chips seriously.

The women’s scratch race is up next, and not content to make it a boring race, Germany’s Charlotte Becker attacks very early and quickly gains half a lap. The chase is on though, and Becker pops with 29 to go. I actually know in real life two of the people in this race – Higgins, again, but also Ireland’s Shannon McCurley, who lives in Australia and I believe used to race for the LaTrobe Valley. She sits in the back and waits for the sprint, while the Netherlands attacks again and again and again. If there was a prize for most aggressive, it would be going Dutch tonight. With two to go there’s a bit of rubbing and the Ukrainian rider pulls a pedal. It causes some gaps to open up and Mel Hoskins of Australia is forced to do a lot of work. She goes high on the bank, and it looks like the downhill roll might get her the win, until Poland’s Katarzyna Pawlowska goes a little higher and gets a little more help from gravity. Another bloody silver for Australia.

Shannon McCurley.

A break from writing as the second heats of the women’s sprints take place. Meares looks to have rolled Pendleton nice and easy, but closer inspection reveals Meares to have swung out of the lane, and she is relegated. In the other heat, which no one here cares about, Krupeckaite catches Shulika napping and rolls through like she’s nipping down the 7-11 for the key ingredients of a peanut butter and jam sandwich.

The men’s omnium scratch is up next. The sound of so many bikes going past is kinda incredible – it’s a low, forceful rumble. Riders here will have taken note of the omnium standings – it’s like a GC battle, and the leaders won’t chase anyone who isn’t a threat to the overall. A break forms with 44 to go, and it does contain France’s Coquard, so Glenn O’Shea and Zach Bell go to the front an pull. Ed Clancy even chips in for half a lap, and then they’re back. But then a break goes with all the contenders in it – bar Clancy. Bell, Archbold and O’Shea all rip it and eventually gain a lap. Bell doesn’t stuff around though – the boy only knows how to attack. He seems to be in everything this weekend – I bet he also pops up in the points race. Marty Irvine from Ireland started this day in tenth and doesn’t want to slip out of contention, so he’s throwing everything he can at them. In the end it comes down to a sprint. Hansen from Denmark takes the early run, and everyone else gets stuck in traffic, despite some aggressive lines from O’Shea.

Zach Bell is also extremely handsome. 

In the deciding sprint heat between Meares and Pendleton Meares does what she can to intimidate Pendleton, and in the beginning it seems to be working. Meares leads it out, looks the goods, but Pendleton has a deceptive turn of speed. They finish right next to each other, and no one is sure who has won. There’s a pause. There’s a wait. There’s a little bit of time go by. But then the scoreboard shows a little star next to Pendleton’s name. She has won it. 

Slightly pervy photo of Pendleton after she beat Meares.

Fricking sprint night is proving to be way too exciting. I’m having trouble tweeting – though you may not know that by the way I’m dominating your twitter feed. Seriously, every single one of these sprints are going down to the wire, with rarely more than a tyre’s width in it. And a majority of them are going to three rounds. It’s kinda intense. No, it’s really intense! Man, you’re going to need to get the results from CyclingNews. The men’s finals are tomorrow night. You should totally come down for that.

The women’s finals are up now though, and the first heat is Meares V Shulika. Meares seems to underestimate her opposition here, and lets her lead it out, but she has the horses to win it back. The second heat is Pendleton v Krupeckaite, whose name I can now spell without looking. With no Australian in this heat the crowd seems to be siding with the mother country, even if Krupeckaite does have a sweet jaguar or tiger or something scary on her helmet. I’m starting to like Pendleton. She’s a bit of a scrapper, but she has this incredible turn of speed. It’s her acceleration that makes her difficult to beat.

It’s the women’s omnium next, with Edmondson currently in the lead. She’s got both Sarah Hammer (who is so tough she could win just by showing up) and Canada’s Tara Whitten in the race though, and those two seasoned competitors may be out to teach the new kid a lesson. And it’s Whitten who makes the early move, with the Korean Lee in tow, but the bunch recognizes the danger and pulls them back. But there’s another youngster in the field, team GB’s Laura Trott. She’s been trumpeted as the next big thing, and the field will need to mark her carefully. Eventually, though, a small group takes a lap, and none of the hitters are in it. This will change the women’s omnium standings, for sure. Well, duh. But you know what I mean. Edmondson does enough to take fifth, however, which puts her four points ahead of Trott for the overall, with Sarah Hammer, who is so tough she makes Rocky scared, in third.

Sarah Hammer's bike. Said the mechanic to Brendan: "U can't touch this." Nah, he didn't really.

Midway through the scratch race a second person comes up to me and accuses Meares of playing the man, not the ball. “If you’ve just set the world record over 200 metres,” they start, “Why the hell wouldn’t you just go to the front and do the work? Why bother looking around and throwing hooks?” I laugh, of course. But then I get to thinking. All week Pendleton has been in the media complaining about how Meares “stretches the rules” and plays rough. I even remember ranting about how stupid Pendleton was being, revealing her weaknesses to all and sundry. But rough play (keep it clean, Hurley!) wasn’t her weakness, in the end. She did just fine with the rough stuff. Her weakness was that she just wasn’t as fast as Meares. She needed Meares to stuff around, to hold off on unleashing her pure speed. And that’s just what happened. This race started a week ago, and Victoria won it then.

It’s around this point that I exceed my daily twitter limit. I think I did hit the five hundred mark. That’s probably a bit over the top, and I relish the break. It frees me up to watch the racing a little more, which is good, because the sprints are on again, and once again they are damn, damn close. Chris Hoy and Jason Kenny both go through – it’s kinda sad to think that thanks to the IOC’s one person per event rule, only one of them can go to the Olympics. This event – the final of it, anyways – may decide who gets to go. That sucks.

The women’s sprint finals are on next. Meares takes hers out with relative ease, and wins the bronze medal. She’s not as stoked as if she had won, but she’s certainly as gracious. She takes her time and acknowledges the whole crowd. But the Pendleton v Krupeckaite battle goes down to the wire, with Pendleton leaving her run a little late, perhaps depending on the burning acceleration I mentioned earlier a little too much. But there’s a protest and a relegation – Krupeckaite has come out of the lane in the back straight - and a few minutes later Pendleton is announced as the winner. It’s probably not how she would’ve wanted to win it, and some unkind sections of the crowd boo, but she’s already in tears. It seems she didn’t expect this win, especially after only being able to qualify 4th fastest. She used her smarts to win, and that’s kinda rad. 

Krupeckaite after being defeated. I have terrible timing.

There are two omnium events left, and even though one of them will decide the men’s champion (in a sweet Canada v Australia commonwealth battle), there’s a sense of anti-climax in the air. Meares, the day after setting a world record, has been vanquished, and Perkins knocked out before the semis.

Well, there is until O’Shea steps up. He’s up against Zach Bell again. They’re tied on the same points, so whoever wins this will win the overall. As they pull out of the gates O’Shea skips the front wheel a little, but by the end of the first lap he’s up. I know I’ve raved about Bell and his attacking style, but I’m starting to get the impression that it may have cost him a little too much energy. O’Shea pulls away, and by the time a kilometer has passed he has won the kilo, and the overall. The crowd goes a little nuts. O’Shea climbs off his bike and into the stands to join them. It hasn’t been the best world champs for Australia so far, but a win in this – an Olympic event – counts for more.

The elimination race is up next. All the buzz on twitter about these races have mentioned the country carnivals, and it does feel a little bit like Ararat has come to Melbourne. I wonder if they’ll have a handicap later? In the meantime, though, I pretend to stand for the national anthem.

When the elimination is on I wander down to the finish line to get a better look. There aren’t any headbutts, but there’s lots of yelling and occasional screaming. Laura Trott does the Brendan Viti method – sprint, then rest, then sprint – and manages to take it out, putting her into the omnium lead coming into the second day. 

Laura Trott displayed an impressive set of abs, and an impressive display of patience for some doofus with a smartphone. 

I’m tired, but I’m getting the hang of it. Hopefully I won’t have missed the last train, and will make it back to Blakey’s in one piece. 


The axman.

For the fanboys.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amazed that you spoke of the Dutch, yet there was no mention of rudders. I applaud your restraint.