Cycling: French and Brits finetune team sprinters ahead of worlds
Multiple world champions France have taken the "difficult" decision of making iconic world kilometre record holder Arnaud Tournant a replacement
PARIS, February 21, 2008 - Track rivals France and Britain set out markers
for the men's team sprint event Wednesday as preparations for the upcoming
world championships and Olympics Games continue apace.
Multiple world champions France have taken the "difficult" decision of
making iconic world kilometre record holder Arnaud Tournant a replacement for
the event at the world championships in Manchester next month.
Great Britain meanwhile will decide after Saturday's 'Revolution' event at
the speedy Manchester velodrome who will win the hotly-disputed lead-out place
for the championships, and possibly for the Olympics.
France are considered the pacesetters in the team sprint, having won the
Olympic title at Sydney in 2000 and the world title eight times since 1997 -
with Tournant the single common denominator in all of those victories.
Great Britain's coaches are hoping to end French domination of the event at
the world championships on March 26-30, but first they will have to decide who
gets the job of putting in the explosive, first lap start.
Former BMX star Jamie Staff is regarded a favourite after an impressive
lead-out ride in the recent Copenhagen Track World Cup, though he is under
pressure from Jason Kenny, and Craig MacLean.
All three riders will take part in a special standing-start 500m time-trial
at the beginning of the Revolution, designed to simulate a competition
And while Staff is confident, the lure of a place on the worlds team is
likely to bring the best out of both Kenny and MacLean.
"This is serious head-to-head stuff and the coal-face for selection for the
Worlds," confirmed British Cycling head coach Shane Sutton.
"The rider who rides the Worlds will definitely have a head start on
Olympic selection so the riders know how important it is."
Tournant meanwhile will find himself uncharacteristically on the sidelines
as the French prepare to defend the title won in Palma de Mallorca last year.
Gregory Bauge will lead-out their bid, Kevin Sireau will relay on the
second lap and Mickael Bourgain will finish it off on his own for the third
and final lap.
"It was very close between Mickael Bourgain and Arnaud Tournant," France's
national track director Patrick Cluzaud told AFP Wednesday.
"On times alone, Mickael Bourgain has a slight advantage. Both have about
the same amount of experience, but there's also the simple feeling of who we
believe will make the strongest team."
Cluzaud said Tournant could be called upon after the qualification rounds
at the world championships, if necessary.
But that may come as little consolation for the man who has been a vital
cog in France's team sprint for nearly a decade - Tournant has been involved
in all of France's victorious bids for gold in the three-man event.
Tournant, who is likely to come up against old foe, Chris Hoy of Scotland,
in the keirin event at the world championships, is set to end his career at
the end of 2008.