Saturday, March 10, 2012

American Tracksters Bring Home The Hardware From Conti Champs

 The 13 Americans representing the United States racked up 11 medals at the recent Pan American Continental Track Championships in Mar del Plata, Argentina. The USA Cycling squad gained new continental champions in the men’s team sprint and scratch races. Overall the USA Cycling team also tallied seven bronze and two silver medals.
The men's team sprint squad scored a big win over Canada and Argentina.
The competition marked one of the squad’s final opportunities to gain valuable international ranking points in qualifying start spots for this summer’s Olympic Games in London. Medals in both the men’s team sprint and omnium put the U.S. in position to potentially qualify Olympic start spots in those events heading into next month’s world championships in Australia.   
“It was a long schedule with rain delays and warm weather, so we needed to conserve physical and mental energy,” said USA Cycling Sprint Track Program Director Jamie Staff. “We accomplished what we came here to do, and that was to gain points on Venezuela in the team sprint. The other medals we’ve earned have come as a nice reward for everyone’s hard work. Next, it’s straight back into training for the World Championships which are in a months’ time.”
The competition started out on a golden note on Saturday with the men’s team sprint squad of Jimmy Watkins (Bakersfield, Calif./Project London 2012), Kevin Mansker (Long Beach, Calif./Project London 2012) and Michael Blatchford(Cypress, Calif./Project London 2012) posting a 46:491 to edge Canada and leave rival Argentina settling for third place. The U.S. collected its second gold on day one as well with Bobby Lea (Topton, Pa./Pure Energy Cycling-ProAirHFA) outpacing a talented South American field to win the men’s scratch race and take the continental title.

Also on day one, Elizabeth Reap-Carlson (Jim Thorpe, Pa./Black Dog Pro Cycling Team) posted a 35:872 in the women’s 500-meter time trial to grab a bronze and raise the U.S. medal count to three. A young American men’s team pursuit squad of Matthew Lipscomb (Decatur, Ga./Fulton Flyers), Gregory Daniel (Englewood, Colo./Slipstream-Craddock Junior Development), Ian Moir (Long Beach, Calif./Yahoo Cycling Team) and Zack Noonan (Kutztown, Pa.FCS-Metro Volkwagon) also had a strong showing, qualifying for the bronze-medal ride and clocking a 4:21.074 to settle for fourth.  
“Our goal for the men’s team pursuit squad was to make the medal round then to win the bronze,” said Benjamin Sharp, USA Cycling’s endurance program director.  “We fell a bit short of the final goal but the team is always moving forward and performed well overall.”  
Day two saw the women’s team sprint duo of Reap-Carlson and Dana Feiss (Telford, Pa./Home Depot Center) pull in the silver. The pair posted a 0:35.841 in the gold-medal round to miss the mark of Venezuela’s Daniela Larreal and Mariesthela Vilera by less than .8 of a second, marking the second medal for the 41 year-old Carlson. Beth Newell (Oakland, Calif./Now Cycling – NOW and Novartis for MS) also collected a bronze on Sunday with a time of 3:50.554 in the women’s individual pursuit.
Beth Newell collected a trio of bronze medals for the U.S. finishing third in the individual pursuit, team pursuit and omnium.
Newell continued her pursuit success into Monday, teaming up with Cari Higgins(Boulder, Colo./Exergy TWENTY 12) and Jennifer Valente (San Diego, Calif./Exergy TWENTY 12) to win their bronze medal match with Mexico.
Day four saw Lea collect his second medal of the contest with a bronze in men’s omnium. Over the two-day, five-event competition Lea finished first in the lap, seventh in the points race, first in the individual pursuit, second in kilometer time trial and eighth in scratch race to tally 22 points. In the event where the lowest point-earner is crowned champion, Lea just missed the win finishing two points above continental champion Walter Pérez’s (Argentina) 20 point total.
Eighteen year-old Valente collected two more medals for the U.S., finishing third in the women’s scratch race and Keirin to bring her medal tally to three on the week.
“The trip served as a great learning experience for Jenn Valente who rode the team pursuit and scratch race and medaled in both,” stated Staff. “Her confidence grew and she continued her trend, picking up another bronze in the Keirin for a total of three medals.”
The competition wrapped up with another pair of medals for the U.S. on Thursday. Mansker posted a faster time than the eventual gold medalist, Alsander Quincy of Trinidad and Tobago, before Wednesday’s men’s kilometer time trial competition was postponed due to rain, and subsequently restarted Thursday morning. He went on to ride a time of a, nearly one second slower than his top-Wednesday time, to collect his second medal of the competition in the form of a silver. Newell also tallied her third medal of the competition earning bronze in the women’s omnium on Thursday.  
The group will now look to carry the momentum of their 11 medals into the upcoming UCI Track World Championships, April 4 – 8 in Melbourne, Australia. The squad that will represent the United States at the world championships is set to be announced by USA Cycling on March 12.

The Pan American Continental Road Championships will continue March 9-11 in Mar del Plata, Argentina. View the complete schedule here.
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