Thursday, April 5, 2012

When The Light's Out.

Day Two – Evening Session

It’s as hot as hell in Hisense – rumour has it that the heaters are on, in order to make the track faster – so Gene and I go for a stroll outside. Outside dusk is settling in, the sun going down over the city. It’s a beautiful night. Outside we bump into Angela Wiegard, her new crutches strewn next to her on the steps. We sit down and chat with her a while, watching the cars and bikes go past along Swan Street. The crowd are milling around, folks bumping into old friends and people they raced against back in 1987. It’s an after work scene again, and there’s that sense of release as the long weekend begins.

Bored, I go take some more tech photos for Hurley. Ed Clancy catches me stalking his bike so I go have a chat. The British Team are so approachable – their PR officer sees me chatting to Ed, and I apologise, but she assures me that it’s fine, and that I can talk to whoever I want. Take that, snooty Australians (“Hey Glenn O’Shea, what are you listening to?” “Nothing.”).

The Special Service Course hubs that Clancy caught me ogling.

As I said earlier, Hurley wanted me to ask about the contrast between his road and track setups, so I do. But for Ed, there aren’t any. Same crank length, same bar height, same everything. He admits that’s a bit unusual, and goes into detail explaining why he rolls that way. I’m more interested in the way the riders think, however, so I ask him how he’s feeling about the Omnium, which he’s currently leading. “To be honest with you, mate,” he tells me, “A bit shite. After last night (when he was part of the pursuit team that set the new world record) I’m having trouble getting my head around it. You know, all the other blokes are off riding down beach road…” “Getting pissed?” I interject. “Yeah, probably!” He answers. He tells me that the mass start omnium events aren’t his favourites. I remember reading something similar in the Cavendish book – about how Team GB want to fund definite gold medals, so they pour their money into the events in which there are the least amounts of variables – the timed events, only to neglect the mass start events. It’s interesting that this still seems to be the case, what, six years later? Eight?

I realize I don’t have any photos for the evening, so I try to take some photos of folks warming up. Miriam Welte’s coach is pinning her number on her, so I grab a quick pic and make the same tired joke I made about Pendleton last night (Welte Pin-Up!). I’m actually looking for my facebook friend Cari Higgins, who is here to race the points race. A couple of years back she was here early for the World Cup, and raced a few Tuesday nights with Brunswick. But she’s not in the Team USA pit, so I take some more sneaky photos of the Australians, which I am now doing solely out of spite. 

Miriam Welte Pin-Up! This joke never gets old!

The women’s sprint quarter finals are up. These are the best of three, so they’re going to take ages. In the first heat of the first race of the night Anna Meares gets hooked on the elbow of Shuang Guo and slips around the duckboards. The crowd goes “oooohhhh” but Meares holds it up. They progress through the heats, generally riding pretty slow for a couple of laps, then riding pretty fast for the last lap. Like men’s sprinting, the women’s sprints are turning into drag race after drag race, and it ain’t great for the sport. Their races are still tight, and still fast, but the feints and fake attacks and shadowboxing are largely gone. Meares goes through, Pendleton goes through, Krupeckaite goes through and the roughie, Ukraine’s Lyubov Shulika goes through. The semis and finals aren’t til tomorrow night though, so it’s kinda anti-climactic. 

Pendleton non-pin-up. 

I take some time to have a look around at the rest of the media centre. It’s a bit of a strange place. A bunch of the photographers – including the guy next to me – have these weird blinkers around their screens, as if they’re scared someone will cheat off of them. It could be a viewing thing, but it seems strangely paranoid.

The screen protectors. Or viewers. Or laser guns.

Women’s team pursuit finals are coming next, and the bronze medal ride-off is first. I shouldn’t have called these races the loser races last night. That was mean. And besides, this is between the New Zealanders, who I love, and the Canadians, who I feel almost related to. They’re both new track forces, and it seems the Canadians have the ascendency, taking home the Bronze.

The crowd is about to go nuts, however, because the Australian Women are about to step up, and they’re battling team GB. Two world records in qualifying. 0.2 seconds between them. Apparently Nettie Edmondson has had a cold all week, and it will be interesting to see how she pulls up. The Australians go out hard, and at one stage are 1.5 seconds up. But team GB start clawing them back, and with one kilometer are up. The Australians are tiring, and the lead is blowing out. By the time the gun goes off Australia are second again, and Team GB has another world record. I’m starting to lose count. It’s a hell of a race regardless. I have a newfound enjoyment of team pursuits. Usually I like races with strategy, where the strongest folks don’t always win, but these races have been so tight that I can’t help but get excited.

Nettie Edmondson overcoming her cold prior to the women's team pursuit

Next up is the men’s omnium points race, and while I’m not too excited about it as a rule, I am a big fan of the flying mullet man, New Zealand’s Shane Archbold. His flowing bogan mane is flapping free behind his helmet, and it’s a nice contrast, a show of personality, as opposed to every single other rider. Glenn O’Shea is also out there, and will be difficult to discount – as will Canada’s Zach Bell, who was the only non-Australian game to go toe-to-toe with Cam Meyer at the Commonwealth Games a few years back. O’Shea and Bell get in the early break, but it comes back pretty easy. There’s a stack right in front of Archbold, but he scoots around it on the apron without batting an eye. Eventually a break forms with Italy’s Elia Viviani and Bell, and they manage to take a lap. With two laps to go, however, there’s a touch of wheels and Viviani goes down. I believe the commissaires give him a couple of laps out, and he’s able to finish the race in first. But it’s the omnium, not the actual points, so no one really cares. Folks are just cheering for Viviani’s bravery. Like Chumbawamba, the crowd likes it when someone gets knocked down, then gets up again. I just hope his sweet Cipollini Speed is alright. 

Viviani's cranks. Most of the riders seem to be running crank lengths traditionally reserved for the road. Viviani is also a roadie, riding for Liquidgas, so it's interesting to see he keeps it the same.

Viviani's bike, which seems to have lost its labels in the crash. I'm sure it had labels on Tuesday.

In hunting for the above pic of Viviani’s bike, which I totally want, I bump into Clancy again. The medal presentations are on, and God Save The Queen is playing, but he’s on the rollers, so standing is a little tricky. He’s happy with his result in the omnium, in the belief that he’s probably tied for first. “Usually,” he tells me, “I finish the first day somewhere between 3rd and 8th, so this is pretty good!” I tell him the race seemed scrappy, but he disagrees. “Didn’t worry me mate,” he goes on, “when it happened I was way out the back feeling sorry for myself. No problem!” He’s not looking forward to the elimination though, describing it as “another shitter.”

The Men’s Time Trial – aka “The Kilo” is up next. This is the event that I hate riding most of all, but it’s good watching, attracting the biggest dudes in cycling. These guys are essentially weightlifters on bikes – the start is so important that they need the same explosive power. Essentially, though, it’s dudes doing four laps by themselves, as fast as they can. If I were a smoker, I’d duck out for a ciggie right now. 

The photographers totally knew that the kilo start was the money shot. 

Finally The Kilo finishes and we’re on to the women’s points race. I have to say, aside from Cari Higgins and Australia’s Amy Cure, I have absolutely no idea who is strong in the race and who isn’t so great. So it’s a bit of an adventure for me. It’s getting pretty late though – ten o’clock, with two major races still to go. And the points race is 100 laps! 

My mate Cari Higgins.

And they don’t seem to be in much of a hurry to complete it – the gun goes but no one moves a muscle. One of my peers suggested that they may get arrested for loitering if this keeps up. Eventually Amy Cure has a crack, and it convinces the others that they’re not there to catch a bus. Only for a little while though – this is easily the slowest race of the evening. And I’m including the sprints. Eventually, though, Italy’s Giorgia Bronzini lights it up, and well she should – she’s the current world road race champion, and has held that status for the last two years. The break doesn’t stick though, and again they roll around, then sprint.

When the move does go it contains none of the usual suspects. There’s a girl from Ireland, a girl from Hong Kong, a Russian girl and my new favourites, the Canadians. First Zach Bell and now Jasmin Glaesser, these hosers sure know how to light up a race. They struggle for a while, but when the bunch sits up after a sprint they latch back on like a limpet, and don’t let anything else go until 18 to go, when Leire Olaberria Dorronsoro form Spain has a crack. The field chases, but in doing so dislodges the initial breakaway – at least for a minute. Eventually they all come back, but Glaesser is too tuckered out from the chase (and the two pursuits she has already done today), and Russia’s Anastasia Chulkova takes three points in the final sprint to win the rainbows. Glaesser is second, and Caroline Ryan wins Irelands first medal for third.

The elimination race is up next, but people are already leaving. It’s freaking 10.45, for crying out loud. And, to add further insult to injury, they play the German national anthem again. Then, to rub more salt in the already-gaping wound, they drag the Women’s points race winners up for their medals. The poor girls are still all red and sweaty from their race, and look like they haven’t even been given a chance to freshen up.

When the elimination finally begins it doesn’t disappoint. It’s tight and squirrelly as all hell. Glenn O’Shea reveals himself as the king of going underneath, spending a lot of time on the duckboards. Clancy gets the boot early and looks relieved. Archbold throws a sweet headbutt and hangs on til fifth or sixth. Eventually, though, it’s O’Shea and Coquard from France in a two-up sprint. There are no feints or shenanigans here either – they’re both way too tired. Coquard makes the move and O’Shea pretty much lets him have it. With good reason – his 2nd place here has guaranteed him a six point buffer heading into tomorrow’s timed events (plus a scratch race).

I’m tired and my stomach hurts. The bastards still have the heat up, even though the riders have all left. The crowds are filtering out and the media have assumed their positions in front of their computers. I’m pretty sure I’m going to miss the last train, which will mean a ride back to Blakey’s, where I’ve left my car. Folks from the Australian Cycle Messenger Champs have just finished their Alleycat, and are congregating at the Park Hotel. I’m tempted to roll on by, but we’re starting here at 1 again tomorrow, so it’s another early morning ahead. 

That's right. In Venezuela they use power tools to undo their chainring bolts.

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