Olympic Games Points Race (Beijing)
Bronze for Newton!
This is a brutal race. Over a distance of 160 laps of the track, 40 kilometres (25 miles), the race is a series of sprints, 16 in all! The riders have to measure their efforts and choose a strategy that will help them both score points as well as stay on the same lap as the leader of the race. Chris Newton won the UCI World Cup for this event last season but broke his collarbone before the World Track Championships.
As the time for the start approaches, the riders are taking a drink as they line up on both edges of the track, one group on the fence and the other on the inside. Riders set off and after a rolling lap, the gun goes and its race on! It’s a normal, steady but fast start as riders hit the front and swing up the track to let the next rider through.
An attack off the front by the American Bobby Lea and the fields strings out and splits. Bell lap for the first sprint and the American has a big gap to the field. Newton gets two points behind Greg Henderson. No points for the British rider Newton in this sprint as it goes to Poland’s number 7.
The Aussies go on the attack and a group forms at the front but it comes together quickly enough. Then two riders go on the attack from Italy/Ukraine and they get the points for the third sprint and carry on with their move. The field behind is splitting and small chase group form behind and it becomes four leaders for the fourth sprint.
The lead group continues to grow and it comes together again before Henderson and Newton make a move. It doesn’t stick. Two more riders get away, Argentina and they get caught in time for the fifth sprint. Then three riders get away, Henderson, Newton (3 more points) and the Polish rider. They get brought back.
The Aussie Cameron Meyer goes and really quickly opens up a gap quickly and a chase group forms and they join him and six riders go clear. Sprint six and they are still clear and the German wins the sprint from this group. They carry on and have a good gap as the field sits up. The gap is only 20 metres but a surge in the peloton and the gap opens. Sprint 7 and lots of chasers are going for it but the leaders make the lap around the halfway mark.
More attacks follow and Newton is one that has a go but the chasers don’t want to commit. Newton goes again on his own. The field chase and then swing up as the bell rings for sprint 8. He gets the 5 points to add to his tally and then swings up to rejoin the field. The Spanish rider Llaneras goes for it as the bell rings for sprint 9 and takes the points, with Newton joining him and a group forms as the field splits.
It comes together again and the five lap takers are still leading and Newton and others need to get away. Newton does just that and a few get away but the field resists it and despite being lined out with 64 laps to go, number 23 attacks and the Spanish rider Llaneras goes away again and a group of three get away, Llaneras gets the five points and rides away from his fellow riders in the break.
Chris Newton has attacked to chase Llaneras with 58 laps to go. With Newton is the German. Llaneras takes the lap. Newton gets the lap as well with the German and it puts Newton into medal contention along with the German. The last position Chris will want is fourth – a place he has had several times at the Worlds.
Bell of Canada takes a lap on his own. Into the finale of the race and three riders go clear and Belgium Keisse is among them. Sprint 12 goes to Keisse but he needs more and the group with Keisse stays clear. Newton goes to them but Llaneras goes clear of everyone. Newton joins Llaneras and these two Points race riders go clear and they work together to try and stay clear. Kiryienka chases them.
Bell lap for sprint 13 and Newton gets second as Kiryienka carries on to chase them. Newton and Llaneras join the peloton and take another lap. Henderson counter attacks with 27 laps to go. Newton is in Silver medal place. Kiryienka with 9 points continues to chase on his own. Bell lap for sprint 14, Kiryienka gets to within 20 metres and in the sprint, Newton doesn’t score. Kiryienka gets his lap.
Henderson continues to chase alone half a lap ahead. Newton has dropped to third, a point behind the German. Two riders go clear and then suddenly there are three leaders just ahead of the race and that includes Cameron Meyer. Newton chases them but there is no support as the bell rings for sprint 15. Newton gets a point as Llaneras rolls him on the line and that is enough for him to win the bike race. He can then be seen waving at the crowd as he sits at the front of his peloton.
The silver and bronze will be between Newton and the German and its on the final sprint and with two riders away, they get caught and at the line, Newton is beaten by the German and it means Chris gets a Bronze medal, a wonderful achievement by Chris.
Afterwards Chris spoke to BBC's Jill Douglas and said on Llaneras making a break for freedom, Chris, at his fourth Olympics, explained "I knew he was one of the strongest riders, and this race is a game of cat and mouse with a lot of tactics. It's always the same strong riders at the front so I knew who to watch and I kind of used Greg Henderson from New Zealand to keep me in the bike race to start with. There was a bit of marking going on when we lost that lap but I got two back with Juan. It was hard out there."
"I was very calm before today's race. I had my sleepless nights about four nights ago but since then I have been sleeping well. I didn't think I was ready for it but as soon as I pulled on a skinsuit, something kicked in and I felt ready."
"This means a lot to me. I love riding the Team Pursuit and with the team pursuit we do, that gives us a guide as to what to expect but with this distance race being my only event, I was nervuos before hand because you don't know how you are going. You do all the training and it may go right or may not. It did though. Looking back to Athens that was a bit of a hiccup in the points race there but that is water under the bridge and this more than makes up for it."
"I have had fantastic support from my wife and baby girl who is nine months old who I have hardly seen for the last year and I am well chuffed."
1. LLANERAS Joan ESP
2004 Men's Olympic champion: Mikhail Ignatiev (Rus)