World Cup - Team Pursuit (Italy)

ALTHOUGH Spain, nowhere in the Athens round of the World Cup, recruited their World Cup individual pursuit leader Juan Martinez to help them pound to the fastest qualifying time in the super-fast team pursuit qualifier on a sultry, overcast Saturday afternoon (4-15.846) against Russia, the Russians increased the tempo in a furious final to topple them 4-14.607 to 4-15.796.

France, fourth in the qualifying round when they were pipped by Poland, also reversed their fortunes, taking third in the final by destroying the Poles by four seconds. Besides Spain, both

Russia and France also fielded their individual pursuiters, respectively Alexi Markov an(] Philippe Ermenault, who showed little signs of their, efforts of the previous day when they contested the individual pursuit final.

Britain were a creditable seventh fastest, only four seconds off the winning pace in this hotly contested team pursuit, 16 nations all rode like well-drilled machines, driven to super human effort in the quest for Olympic selection. Britain's 4-18.746 was too good for Ukraine on the opposite side of the track who clocked 4-21.182 for 10th place. The British team were always up on them and, encouragingly, only 100ths of a second and one place behind Germany, while a young Australian team finished 12th.

Britain's foursome - in starting order - were Shaun Wallace, Bryan Steel, Matt Illingworth and Chris Newton. After each man completed a half-lap stint on the front, they settled into one-lap turns, with the exception of Wallace, not yet on song, and who it was agreed would swing up every half lap.

Newton looked mean, the most powerful. For the talented road and track star, this was his first major team pursuit outing since the World's in Colombia last year.

The team looked perfectly composed and moved like clockwork, but near the end they missed a couple of beats.

Steel explained. `We stepped up the schedule from a 22 to 20 (4-20) just before the start, because the conditions were right.

My weakest point is the start, but once I'm settled in, I'm happy.' As the team went into lap turns, the job was to hold the pace, rather than accelerate. But their equilibrium became slightly upset. `Shaun did a couple of bad turns towards the end and dropped it down a bit. But we all kicked it up again. It was a bit confusing on the lap because Shaun lost a wheel.'

But Steel was happy with the result. `I'm pleased. I was ill earlier in the week, and I was very nervous this morning about how we would get on. I'm pleased that not being 100 per cent, I was still all right with the team.'

Wallace agreed he had started to struggle after three kilometres. Newton, he said, had apparently misheard Dailey's call that they were `one up' for `one down' and whipped up the pace which was too much for Wallace.

Doug Dailey gave his technical report: `It was a quick start. Shaun started quicker than the schedule. They built up with over two minutes to go to 1.5 seconds up on schedule. Then they faltered a little bit but steadied themselves. They finished just over a second up on schedule. We scheduled for a 20, we did 18.8. So they got what they wanted.'

Team pursuit.Ride-off for third place.- France (C. Bos, P, Ermenault, J-M. Monin, S. Renaux) 4-16.329 bt Poland (M. Galazka, R. Karsnicki, J. Rebiewski, M. Tylsky) 4-20.311.

Final.- Russia (Anton Chantyr, Edouard Gritsoun, Nikolai Kouznetsov, Alexi Markov) 4-14.607 bt Spain (A. Alperi, B. Gonzalez, J. Llaneras, J. Martinez) 4-15.796.