American Taylor Phinney easily beat New Zealand’s Jesse Sergent to successfully defend his individual pursuit title at the world track championships in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Thursday.
Phinney faced off against Sergent, his Trek/Livestrong teammate in the gold medal round after the two posted the day’s fastest qualifying times.
Earlier in the day, Sergent produced a blistering performance in his qualifying heat with reigning world champion Phinney, pipping the 20-year-old American in the final two laps with a winning time of 4:15.988. Phinney’s qualifier was second fastest in 4:16.102, setting up a gold-medal ride against the two friends and teammates.
Jack Bobridge of Australia, last year’s silver medalist, defeated Russian Alexander Serov in the bronze medal round.
Both Sergent and Phinney have embarked on road careers in the past year and ride for the Under-23 Trek/Livestrong development team run by Lance Armstrong.
The result has proved something of a coup for the outfit, with Armstrong immediately commenting on his Twitter page: “It’s an all Trek/Livestrong team final tonight for the world pursuit title. I’ll be firmly planted in front of the TV!!”
Phinney said that despite the individual pursuit being knocked off the Olympic program he fully intends on focusing on the event in a bid to try to break Chris Boardman’s 14-year-old world record of 4:11.114 — a time that was set with a ‘Superman’ position that is now banned by cycling authorities.
“I’m going to have to work hard over the next couple of years if I want to beat it, but I’m not giving up this event until I do,” said Phinney.
“I came here to win, so it’s really a relief. I put a lot of effort into this race. This is a fast track, and we saw some fast times.
“I wanted to go out and go better than 4:16, but it wasn’t going to happen.”
Sergent admitted the disappointment he felt was softened by the fact Phinney is a close friend, as well as a teammate.
“Obviously I’m disappointed, but Taylor is a good friend of mine so it’s not as bad,” Sergent told AFP.
Despite being slightly behind Phinney in the race’s early stages, Sergent admitted he really began to struggle at the midway stage, by which point he was trailing by six tenths of a second.
“I kind of fell off the pace midway through, after that I was walking the line to Taylor.”
Australian Jack Bobridge, who won bronze, had signalled his worlds intentions last month, setting a blistering time of 4:14.427 in Adelaide — a time that is faster than the Olympic record set by Britain’s reigning champion Bradley Wiggins.
However, the 20-year-old made the crucial mistake of going out far too fast in qualifying, and couldn’t hold the pace all the way — a mistake he said he will learn from.
“I always come to the worlds thinking to stand on top of the podium for first. I’m not going to lie, I’m definitely disappointed with my effort this morning,” said Bobridge, who finished second behind Phinney last year.
“I got a bit carried away and a bit excited. I’ll learn from my mistakes and you never know after a few years on the road I might be able to start that fast and finish that fast as well.”
Bobridge, who rides for the Garmin road team, added: “I’m definitely disappointed after coming out and riding 14 (4:14sec) at nationals a month ago. But to stand on third, I still got a medal and I got on the podium and head held high for tomorrow’s team pursuit.”
Sergent’s silver medal came in the midst of the New Zealand women’s pursuit team setting a new world record of 3:21.552 on their way to bronze in their match-up with the United States.
Gold Medal Round:
Taylor Phinney (USA) – 4:16.600 (55.714kph) – defeats Jesse Sergent (NZ) – 4:18.459
Bronze Medal Round:
Jack Bobridge (Aus) – 4:18.066 – defeats Alexander Serov (Rus) – 4:21:263
Men’s pursuit qualifying
1. Jesse Sergent (NZL) 4:15.988
2. Taylor Phinney (USA) 4:16.102
3. Jack Bobridge (AUS) 4:17.169
4. Alexander Serov (RUS) 4:18.356
5. Rohan Dennis (AUS) 4:19.292
6. Vitaliy Shchedov (UKR) 4:20.316
7. Westley Gough (NZL) 4:20.685
8. Lasse Norman Hansen (DEN) 4:22.239
9. Vitaliy Popkov (UKR) 4:22.999
10. Juan Esteban Arango (COL) 4:23.595
11. Patrick Gretsch (GER) 4:24.224
12. David O’Loughlin (IRL) 4:25.203
13. Artur Ershov (RUS) 4:25.352
14. Marco Coledan (ITA) 4:26.267
15. Levi Heimans (NED) 4:26.405
16. Arno Van Der Zwet (NED) 4:26.677
17. Ingmar De Poortere (BEL) 4:27.400
18. Albert Torres (ESP) 4:28.327
19. Jonathan Durfrasne (BEL) 4:29.416
20. Lok King Cheung 4:32.195
Aussies aiming to recapture team gold
A change in the lineup of the Danish team may give Australia a chance to avenge its silver medal finish in the men’s team pursuit in 2009 at the world track cycling championships Friday.
On a day that will also feature the men’s kilometer time trial and the women’s scratch race, the team pursuit should have the host nation on their toes at Ballerup’s Super Arena.
But it will be a different Danish team that beat beat Australia to the 2009 world title, a year after claiming Olympic silver behind Britain at the Beijing Olympics.
Both Casper Jorgensen and key team member Alex Rasmussen will not compete, meaning likely starts for young guns Rasmus Quaade and Niki Byrgesen, who will join Jens-Erik Madsen and Michael Faerk Christensen for the 16-lap event.
Australia’s quartet of Jack Bobridge, Rohan Dennis, Leigh Howard and Cameron Meyer won silver last year and with Bobridge and Dennis in good form the team can realistically aim for gold.
After some strong training performances recently in Adelaide, endurance coach Ian McKenzie is happy his team has quickly adjusted to the slightly different profile of the Ballerup boards.
“Adelaide is more of a bowl with longer, easier bends and shorter straights whereas the Copenhagen track has very tight bends with long straights but I’m pretty pleased with how they’ve adapted,” he said.
“In Poland last year it took us four sessions to get used to it but this year by the second session they were pretty much spot-on.”
McKenzie will finalize the starting lineup for Friday’s teams pursuit after Thursday’s individual competition, for which Bobridge, expected to race for gold, could only qualify for the bronze medal match.
In 2009, New Zealand beat Britain to the bronze medal, and the Kiwis will again be expected to medal.
Mystery surrounds Britain’s four-man team, however, with 40-year-old Jason Queally still clinging to hopes of a shock ride for the pursuit team ─ currently composed of Ed Clancy, Andy Tennant, Steven Burke and Ben Swift.
Queally, a former sprint specialist, is credited with helping launch Britain’s hugely successful track program following his kilometer victory at the Sydney Games in 2000.
After failing to make the sprint team for Beijing two years ago, Queally had retired but a recent spell riding as a pilot for Britain’s Paralympic tandem team brought him back into the fold.
His recent performances in the pursuit, which is not his specialty, raised eyebrows to the extent he has been tipped for a place at the London Games in 2012.