BLOG: ANDY JONES
Last week was all about the Track World Championships and what a week it was. I hope that you either got chance to get along to Manchester or were able to tune in to the great CW website or TV coverage to catch all the action.
Nine gold and two silver medals by our GB team was a fantastic achievement and bodes well for Beijing in August. With being in the privileged position of getting close to the riders and team personnel, you see how professional a set up it is and how dedicated everyone is in working together in achieving the ultimate goal of winning medals. Congratulations to everyone.
Monday turned out to be quite a busy day really. Getting back late on Sunday evening from the Girvan meant I hadn’t done much picture editing. So, I was up early on Monday and straight in to getting a selection of pictures together from the weekends action. With that out of the way it was on to writing my blog. Before I knew it, it was almost four o’clock by the time everything was completed. Just chance for a ride on the bike. I went out for a couple of hours and rode to Bakewell and back. It was a beautiful afternoon. The late afternoon light was fantastic and another one of those times you wise you'd had a camera with you.
On Tuesday I made the most of the morning with a three hour ride on my regular Matlock run. I knew with being at the World Track Championships that the chances were I wouldn’t be out for a pedal again until the beginning of the following week. It was a pleasant morning. I saw a couple of Treecreepers on my route, close to Ashford-in-the-Water. These delicate, small birds with a fine curved bill, flit and spiral their way up trees in search of grubs hiding in the cracks of the bark. With mottled brown backs and a brilliant white chest they are quite striking and with their characteristic upward spiralling foraging was why they caught my eye. Though not particularly rare as such, they are not a bird I see as often as I perhaps remember from a few years ago.
Once back from my pedal I got a couple of things done which needed to be put in the post and then it was sorting things in preparation for the rest of the week.
Wednesday morning and I drove over to a rainy Manchester to start my week at the World Track Champs. Things didn’t really get off very well. I parked up at the velodrome and wandered over to the accreditation tent in the corner of the car park. Picked up my accreditation and my car park pass and jogged back to the car as it was now raining quite hard. I just didn’t quite get to my car in time to stop the foreign TV crew who were getting out of their Ford Galaxy type hire car next to my mine from denting my car. The parking/security attendant had insisted that they park as close as possible to make room for more cars. He’d asked me to do a similar thing but I said I’m not parking that close and I compromised with him to allow a little more room.
With them being made to park even closer it then created a problem for them getting out of their car. The guy in the back was clearly struggling to get out and consequently his door banged in to the side of my car as he finally extracted himself. There is now a small(and probably insignificant to some people) dent above the rear nearside wheel arch. I was absolutely livid as the whole thing was avoidable. Some common sense should have been used by one, the parking/security attendant by not allowing cars to be parked such that that type of thing could happen and two, the TV guy to have realised he wasn’t going to get out his side and should have moved along the back seat and get out of the other side, which at that point was car free.
I can imagine that the attendant’s boss had said get the cars in as tight as possible within the lines(which are too narrow anyway) and he’d taken that to the letter. Also there was obviously a language barrier with the attendant speaking poor English which was then compounded by the visiting foreign TV crew speaking even less English. Absolutely maddening.
The championships kicked off in the afternoon with the men’s individual pursuit qualifying. Bradley Wiggins was up against Dutchman Huizenga and was narrowly beaten but with the two of them setting the fastest times of the afternoon, they would meet again in the final later in the day.
The atmosphere built for the evening session, which saw the official ceremony start the evenings programme. Gold for Wiggins was anticipated in the pursuit final and he duly delivered another consistent performance to the applause of a rapturous crowd. Unfortunately the Team Sprint team were unable to beat the French in their final but silver was still a fine performance against the favourites. So a gold and silver by the close of evening was a fantastic start to the 2008 championships.
Thursday and it was another great day for British cycling with the men‘s team pursuit and sprint competitions, women’s individual pursuit and team sprint. I really enjoy watching the team pursuit. With the slick rotation as the lead man swings up and off to join the back of the of the four man chain. The whoosh of disc wheels amplified behind the wooden boards of the track. Tremendous.
The Great Britain team of Wiggins, Manning, Clancy and Thomas gleamed in their all white Track World Cup winners skin-suits as they posted the second best time in qualifying and going under the four minute mark. Denmark put in a the best qualifying time, again under the four minute mark. Things were looking good for a record ride in the evenings final run off. Added to that, Wendy Houvenaghel posted a new British record in the individual pursuit in her qualifying which was them immediately bettered by Rebecca Romero. Unfortunately, Wendy’s time was just behind that of Romero’s qualifying opponent of Sarah Hammer so would only be riding for a bronze in the evening session. Hoy was also progressing nicely in the sprint competition.
The evening session was electric. Played out to a full house who raised the roof as the Brits hauled in the gold medals. First it was the GB men’s pursuit team who also set a new world record. It was nice to see the previous holders Australia form a line and congratulate the GB boys as they came off the track. The applause had barely died down before Romero claimed the second gold of the night.
The night was completed by Shanaze Reade and Victoria Pendleton taking the Team Sprint gold. In between times Chris Hoy had qualified for the sprint final to take place the following evening. What a night. The medal presentations were followed by a special presentation for Hugh Porter who received the British Cycling Federations 'Gold Badge of Honour' from BC president Brain Cookson in recognition of his lifetime achievements in cycling.
Brian Cookson (right) presents Hugh Porter with the Gold Badge of Honour
Friday was also another successful day for the home nation. My German colleague Hans Roth was by now joking with me that it was becoming the British National Championships.
Pendleton qualified easily in the sprint competition to go through to Saturday’s finals. But the night was all about gold medals for Chris Hoy in the sprint final and for Romero, Houvenaghel and Rowsell in the women’s team pursuit. There was even royalty present to witness the action for the evening session with Prince Edward watching from the VIP area. He had earlier been taken on a walk about around the team pit areas and was introduced to Chris Hoy before he went out on track to take gold in the sprint final. Hoy is the first British world sprint champion since Reg Harris.
It was a welcome shorter session on Saturday but no less a spectacle than the events earlier in the week. In fact, it was probably more intense with so much packed in to four hours. Victoria Pendleton blitzed the opposition to take gold in the sprint. She just seemed to have another gear. Fabulous.
The most frantic event of the evening had to go to the men’s Madison. Wiggins and Cavendish whipped up the crowd from the off taking the first sprint points. Several teams then took a lap on the field and things perhaps didn’t look good for Brad and Cav. However they kept their points tally ticking over nicely and had a top tally in that department. They just needed to gain that lap. As the 200 lap race unwound it was in the final 30 or so laps that the blue touch paper was lit.
The crowd noise was incredible as Wiggins went on the attack. It didn’t seem possible but the gap kept growing as he and Cavendish spun the pedals to try and claw back the lost lap. They made it in the nick of time and the crowd went ballistic. The gold was theirs as Cavendish put his wheel in front for the final sprint. I have to say I’ve seen a few Madisons and that has to go down as one of the best I’ve ever witnessed and not just because it was a British win. Stunning.
No sooner had the British national anthem died away, Hoy then led from the front as he took gold in the Keirin.
As the final presentations for the evening were made to Pendleton and then Hoy, I managed to grab a picture of podium flower bearer Clare's drop ear-rings. Girlfriend to Ian Stannard, I’d spoken to her earlier and she’d mentioned her pink jewel encrusted drop earrings she’d got especially to go with the outfit. "You’ll have to get a picture of them when I’m on the podium." she’d said. I caught her eye as she walked off the stage following Hoy’s presentation. She flicked her hair to reveal the afore mentioned accessory. So for Clare, here’s the pic below.
As the velodrome emptied Bradley Wiggins and his son Ben made a appearance on the podium. Little Ben jumped up on to the top step of the podium under the watchful eye of dad and raised his arms much to the amusement of those looking on from the press area. He then asked his dad to do the full medal presentation bit. Bradley fetched his World Madison jersey and medal and duly obliged Ben’s request. A shake of hands, the pulling on of the jersey, in which Ben disappeared, the medal round the neck and a kiss from dad completed the ceremony. The arms were then raised, a little champion in the making.
As the session had finished earlier than the other days, the drive home to Sheffield was done partly in daylight. By the time I reached Glossop it was getting dusky and the huge Rookery near the viaduct was in full flight as they noisily settled down for the night. There were hundred’s of Rooks wheeling over the tree tops. The twisting black cloud of birds was quite a spectacle as suddenly they seemed to form a funnel that dropped in to the tree tops as each found their roost for the night. A top wildlife moment.
Sunday morning and my objective was to firstly get a picture of a gold medal for the front cover of Cycling Weekly. I was up early and drove over to Manchester and went straight to the GB team hotel, just a short drive from the velodrome. I was just a bit too late as most of the team had left already. I saw Dave Brailsford as he was leaving the hotel car park for the velodrome. I mentioned my mission and he said I might catch Geraint Thomas in the dining room taking breakfast. I did find him there and chatted briefly before I mentioned my mission of getting a picture of a gold medal for the cover of CW. He said he still had it up in his room and went off to fetch it. Unfortunately he came back to say that he’d realised that Ed Clancy had already taken it back to the house he shares with Ed when he’s back in the UK.
Oh well. One last chance was to catch Geoff Cooke at the velodrome. He had been organising the presentations all week. Fortunately he was about and I explained what I needed and what it was for. “Sure, no problem” he said and dug out a gold medal for me to photograph. Simon Richardson and I then went outside to get the photos. Perfect, job done and the medal was returned.
All day there was the anticipation of the possibility of another gold for Victoria Pendleton in the Keirin. It was the last event of the championships at the back of the day’s men’s kilo TT, men’s omnium and women’s scratch. It was quite nice to experiment with a few different pictures in those preceding events. The afternoon sunlight casts across the track at certain points and can make for some atmospheric images. (See picture below with Steven Burke in the omnium Kilo TT where he posted the fastest time).
So, the final event rolled around. Pendleton had looked commanding in the previous rounds. The race unfolded. The derny pulled off and the race was on. Jennie Reed took up the front but Pendleton came from behind to come round Reed with two to go. On the front, she appeared to be holding her own, but around the back of the final lap things were getting tight and Reed clearly got her wheel ahead on the line to take the title. There was a sense of shock around the velodrome as it was announced that second and third spot had gone to a photo finish decision. Pendleton nicked it to take silver. I felt for her.
So there we have it, a successful but very hectic and tiring week. What’s next for me? The Tour of Flanders on Sunday and the start of the Spring Classics.
Catch up in a week.
Andy Jones is Cycling Weekly's resident photographer, and has covered pretty much every major cycle race there is, from downhill mountain biking to the Tour de France. You can see many of Andy's photos in our online Gallery section.
Andy's Track World Championships gallery>>