Bayley picks French for team sprint gold
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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Bayley picks French for team sprint gold

by Agence France-Presse at 4:48 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Track
Double Olympic champion Ryan Bayley has picked the "unbelievable French" to draw first blood in the five-day track competition which gets underway with the men's team sprint on Friday.

Bayley, who added two golds from the men's sprint and keirin to Australia's record six-gold haul from the velodrome in Athens, comes into the Olympics more hopeful than confident of a repeat of his 2004 success.

Australia will be one of the teams aiming to battle reigning Olympic champions Germany and world silver medallists Britain in the three-lap power event.

But Bayley admits that France - the world champions from the past three years who boast a disciplined mix of experience and youth - will be practically unstoppable.

"We're motivated and I think we want it more, but it's going to be difficult. The rest of the world seems to be going very fast," Bayley said Thursday after training. "But I think team sprint-wise the French are going to be the ones to beat. They've been doing everything right forever. They're unbelievable."

At the Olympics there is one more round than at the world championships, meaning there is a first round to contend before the final.

Only if France disappoint their coaches with their times will an adjustment be made to the team, with Mickael Bourgain on standby to step in if Arnaud Tournant - racing his last Olympics - slips up.

Gregory Bauge is widely regarded as the fastest starter in the world, and so his place is secured. Kevin Sireau is being tipped for individual sprint greatness in the future, and is in a similar position.

Only Tournant, the world record holder in the kilometre and the man to take his speed all the way over three laps of the 250-metre track, has his back to the wall. If he fails to perform in either qualifying or the first round, he could be left out of an eventual final, meaning he would not win a medal.

For France team sprint coach Gerard Quintyn it's the price to pay for Olympic glory. "They all the know the rules," he said, though acknowledging that whoever has to sit out the final race, even if he has raced the first round, will be fighting his demons.

Britain are the reigning world champions in seven of the ten events and whoever wins the first gold could settle, or unsteady, nerves for the rest of the competition.

Quintyn is taking nothing for granted. "We've got a chance, but we have to go out and take it," he said Thursday.

Britain's Chris Hoy dominated both the chaotic keirin and 21-year-old Sireau in the sprint final at the world championships in Manchester in March. But as part of a trio, Britain's chance of winning gold is less sure. While Jamie Staff is a definite to start and Hoy is certain to be the anchor, the middle place - between Ross Edgar and Jason Kenny - has yet to be announced.

Looking ahead to Friday, however, Hoy says their times will speak for themselves. "The team sprint is going very well. We know we're in the best shape we could be, and the rest is out of our hands," he said. "We know we'll do the fastest time we've ever done, and that's all we can do."

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