Geof Stoker Wins Sprint and Team Sprint at Los Angeles Worlds

29 Oct 2017

2017 Track Worlds Report from Geoff Stoker

Track Worlds 2017 for me have just finished in Los Angeles. This year the preparation was good and the results were there. The short story is I finished Worlds winning the sprint and Team Sprint also finishing second in the Time Trial. If you want the whole story just keep reading.

This year Worlds were held in LA on a track me or many of my team mates had ridden on. The bends were slightly steeper the turns a bit shorter and the straights a bit longer. Rumours were it was a slightly slower track than Sydney or Manchester. The different shape of the track means sprinters especially have to consider the tactical choices made to maximise the chances of winning when it comes to the match racing stages of competition.
My first event was the Time Trial. Normally seeding in these events are done so the fastest riders ride last for whatever reason I was in the first heat. I didn’t worry about talking to the officials or bothering about it too much at least I didn’t have to sit though everyone else’s ride and start thinking if I was going to beat their times. Bike measured to make sure it is all UCI legal. Got locked in the start gate pedal straps tight. Countdown and I felt quite relaxed we had done quite a few runs through the 500m in training. 5-4-3-2-1-GO! I felt quite good from dead stoped to 50kph in 8 seconds, down the back straight out of the seat and up to top speed. Floated wide just a bit through the bend being a bit tighter than I am used to in Sydney into the front straight and into the aero bars. Just thinking about faster, faster, faster two more bends push right through the finish line. Wow that all went so quickly. Conditioning this year has been great so now I just sit around roll down on the rollers and see what everyone else does. I was happy with what I had done on a slightly slower track I had gone faster than States and Nationals. They all rode and posted time some close but I was still in the number one spot right till the last heat with last year’s champion Garry Mandy in it. Countdown – GO - I watched I was up after lap one so my start has definitely improved Garry finished and the scoreboard flashed up 35 something, before I started to celebrate it corrected itself to 34.491 seconds. I was 17 hundredths of a seconds off – ouch. I didn’t beat myself up knowing I had a whole week of racing to go. A day rest then we sprint.

In the morning two days later good breakfast close to one hour of warming up and we started the Sprint competition. First stage of this competition is the 200m timed qualification round. This establishes who you will ride up against in the first round and where you will be seeded. This time instead of being first rider off I was last so I got to see all the different lines and techniques for getting a fast time on this track. I had all ready figured out what worked best for me so I didn’t change any of my plans. US rider Jay Wolkoff had set the fastest time of 11.375 seconds then second last rider was Garry Mandy roll onto the track his line was good but he clocked slightly slower by wow what a margin 11.377. I just thought about myself and I got a great push onto the track up the banking applied the power down the back before the jump out of the seat. Line felt cleaner than the time trial round the bends, I did drop my head in the finish straight and that might have cost me a bit of time. Finished and rolled down the back straight looked up at the scoreboard – nice 11.146 first and fastest (in plain terms average speed 64.597kph).

The fastest 12 riders qualified for the next round I drew US rider George Miranda it’s a lot of fun riding against riders I haven’t met before. George put up a good fight but I went straight through to the ¼ finals George went to the second chance round (repechage).

Quarter finals where the completion gets a bit more serious and each match is a best of 3 competition. I drew Vladimer Makeev from Russia, being the number one seed I get to ride against a winner from the repechage rounds. He moves really well on the track I have seen him ride years before so I knew I had to keep my wits about me. All things went pretty well to plan and I won two straight heats Vladimer then rode the 5-8 place run off which he won so placing him 5th in the competition.

So that was me done for day one I return the next morning for semi finals and I had to race against a fairly quick French rider Bruno Mery. As the competition gets more serious the higher the stakes the faster the riders and their tactical skills also increase. First round went pretty much to plan I led Bruno into the last lap keeping him close on my wheel so I knew exactly where he was. Knowing the racing gets harder as you go through I try to preserve as much energy as possible so I have when I need it time for round one between Bruno and myself was 11.730 for the last 200m (avg 61.381kph).
Round 2 Bruno had the lead off the start. I sat back and let him have a bit of distance (about 15m) coming into the last lap Bruno jumped out of the seat and went, I responded and chased him round into the lap to go down the back straight catching him in the final bend and passing in the finish straight. He caught me just a bit by surprise me with his speed in this round. Bruno qualified in 11.5 what surprised me was the time for the race was 11.590 I had to ride 10.97 to catch and pass him. Nice to know I had the form to do that so through to the finals later that night.

So back to the hotel for a quick sleep, stretch and eat - trying to stay calm. Warm up on rollers again for about one hour wheel change, gear change speed suit on time to race. Garry Mandy had made it through to the Gold Medal final to race against me. I drew the lead in race one and rolled off I was quite happy to lead we both got some height around the banking. If you have never ridden a sprint race especially from the front just think how hard it is to keep your eye on your opponent. You are riding around a velodrome with 42 degree banking just cruising at about 40kph with your head totally looking backwards to make sure you don’t get caught with a surprise attack. Approaching the last lap and Garry attacked and accelerated down the banking under me and caught me just a bit by surprise. I moved but just a bit slow he was all ready there and on his way. I took some height on the banking he came up the bank just a bit he led into the back straight at about 62kph I got out of the seat and accelerated to level alongside Garry around the last bend. I pulled away in the finish straight to win match number one.

Garry led match two off the line we both had height on the banking I was sitting back watching approaching the bend leading into the last lap I saw the slightest opportunity to catch him by surprise and went for it. I got under Garry and had some speed on into the last lap. Right on the finish line with one lap to go my back wheel slipped but I recovered (we were doing 62kph then) I kept the power and speed on down the back and I could feel Garry on my wheel so had to keep it going. Into the finish straight he was still on the wheel. It is a nice feeling winning in two straight matches.
The coverage on the net in LA was the best I have seen so if you would like to see the finals 
1st ride 2:09:50 
2nd ride 2:29:55
After riding the Sprint and Time Trial next morning I had to ride the Team Sprint with Dave Willmott and funny enough my toughest competition Garry Mandy. First ride is to qualify for the medal rounds, fastest two teams go for gold and silver and third and fourth fastest go for bronze. Dave, Garry and I had won Worlds last year in Manchester on the grapevine we had heard the US teams have been working really hard I guess times would tell. We lined up in the second last qualifying heat – countdown – go and Dave got out of the blocks fast and clean. I was onto him down the back straight and he moved up the track coming into the front straight. I powered through and absolutely let it rip for the lap moved up coming into the front straight. OH #%$& where is Garry! He was so far down I was scratching my head at 65kph. I slowed came off the track to find out he had a flat rear tyre and they didn’t get time to let me know. The officials checked it and agreed it was a mechanical failure so we got another start. The only problem was the time between my first 500m and the second 500m was so short. Seven minutes later we were all ready loaded in the gates and ready to start our second attempt. Countdown - GO – Dave got away a little slower this time and my lap felt a bit longer but at least when I moved up Garry was there this time. Lucky for us we qualified second behind the US team who broke the World Best Time we set last year riding 50.168seconods for the 750m. Later that night we would be riding off for gold against the US team.

It was an unusual feeling lining up in the back straight as second fastest team I am not used to that but we all had our thoughts on defending that title from last year in Manchester. Countdown – GO – Dave got out nice, fast and clean. Coming into the back straight Dave moved up I powered through at full speed. I didn’t look back but I know Garry was tucked on relaxing as much as possible at that speed. Lap done I moved up and he was right through under me and on time my job was done and I got to watch Garry finish it off. As he crossed the line you could see we had won the margin was good and the time came up with the commentator letting everyone know it was a new Worlds Best Time. 
The coverage for the Team Sprint Finals
Time 3:13:35

Many Thanks to Everyone who Supported Me
Geoff Stoker

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