Today was my first event at the Deaflympics and I finished 6th out of 34 competitors. This was still a respectable result but I could not help feeling disappointed since my qualifying time and my first match sprint went really well.
All 34 competitors each went individually on the “hot-dog” style course with 180 degree turns at each end to put up a qualifying time over 200 metres. The top 16 would advance to the next round, and I posted the second fastest qualifier with a time of 13.1 seconds, an average speed of 54.7km/h. A Canadian rider, Simon Gagnon-Brassard, posted a very quick 12.8 seconds and looked poised to be a serious contender for the Gold medal. I felt pretty confident of my own medal chances when I saw my qualifier time relative to the others and my 1/8 final went really well. I had Jan Capek of Czech Republic as my opponent. When the whistle went, I slotted in behind him and just watched and reacted to whatever he did. The Czech rider made his jump coming out of the 180 turn, to which I matched and then got a big jump on him that I could cruise to the finish line. My next opponent in the 1/4 finals was French rider, Steeve Touboul (who qualified 10th but beat top US rider Nick Schreiber to pair with me). Touboul was a very twitchy rider and tried to unseat me with his cat and mouse tactics, faking moves and braking to try and get me to go in front of him. Half-way through the match, he came to a track-stand and I responded by doing the same thing. I just wanted to match whatever he did and I was doing perfectly fine. However, I think I made a tactical mistake when I tried to jump him going into the final 180 degree turn. I cut the corner very tight and accelarated out with max power. I put my head down and had to shift down once as I was spinning out, I also never looked behind me to see where he was (another mistake on my part) till he came past me with 100 metres remaining. I had to dig deep to claw him back, and was regaining ground but it was not enough. I had lost by less than half a wheel. I was out of the medal contention and had one more match sprint left to decide 5th to 8th places.
I lined up for my last match-sprint alongside Trevor Kosa (USA), David Snow (USA) and Evgeny Prokhorov (Russia). A couple of times during the match sprint, Kosa and I broke away from the other two. However, we did not want to keep the speed high for fear of spending matches, so we would re-group. Coming out of the final turn, Kosa got a massive jump on me, about three bike lengths but I was able to bring him back, but again it was not enough space for me. I had drawn almost even with him and had done a desparate bike throw. But I came short by a tires width (video finish) and officially placed 6th at the 2009 Deaflympics.
It was interesting to note that the Canadian, who had qualified first, was beaten by the French rider who had beaten me earlier. So, tactically Touboul rode very well to get the bronze medal. An Italian rider, Luca Buontempo, qualified 3rd with a time of 13.3 but was ousted early by 14th qualifier from Russia. Jarrod Denman was 4th fastest qualifier but also had an early exit. It goes to show that its not just about power that gets you the win, but by being tactically astute can have an element of surprise.
As for me, my in-exprience at this type of racing was probably my downfall. The only other match-sprinting I have ever done was at the World Deaf Cycling Championships in 2006. I can take away from this a good learning experience. When watching Paul Wood (USA) win his gold medal, I noticed that he would use the entire perimeter of the 180 degree turn to launch his sprint and he was un-stoppable. The momentum that is created using the perimeter is far better than cutting the corner like I did in the hope of jumping my opponent.
My next event is the Individual Time-Trial on September 8th. Stay tuned for further up-dates.