I’ve never been a huge fan of the elimination race as part of the omnium. It doesn’t have an Olympic feel to it. The race takes place at the back of the bunch, not the front, there’s usually a crash, it’s chaotic, and a bit amateur.
It’s a great kids race, and a staple of a track league, but an Olympic event? I don’t think so.
But last night we watched the women’s elimination race on our feet, cheering along with the rest of the enraptured velodrome. It was the most entertaining race I have seen in years. All thanks to Laura Trott.
Early in the race she spent a little time at the front, on the black line; the perfect place to be. But it’s hard to stay there as riders constantly come over the top. She then spent a few laps in the middle of the bunch. That’s a risky place to be as the riders at the back are sprinting (to avoid being the last over the line) while those at the front hold a steady speed as they’re not in danger.
The result is a constricting bunch, and those in the middle can find themselves with no where to go. This is when the crashes happen.
But Trott, who is about the same size as one of Sir Chris Hoy’s legs, always found her way out of trouble. She squeezed herself through impossibly small gaps, displaying supreme track craft coupled with bike handling skills of a seasoned pro.
About halfway through the race she found herself at the back. In the points race earlier on Saturday she had looked tired, finishing in 17th position (no doubt paying for the excellent team pursuit rides the day before), and it seemed she would soon be eliminated.
Somehow Trott managed to avoid the chop on the first couple of sprints (that come every two laps) by sprinting out of the final banking and overtaking others in the final straight. As a tactic it’s a last resort as the constant sprints are so tiring.
Then she did it again, and again, and again. Each time the crowd was getting louder and louder as Trott would beat just one or two riders over the line to avoid getting pulled out. It was edge of the seat stuff as fifteen riders became ten, became five. Trott was still there and the crowd were on their feet.
She shouldn’t have gotten away with it, and every time she did, you thought it was her last roll of the dice. How many times could she pull this off?
Even those in the track centre started to sit up and take notice. “Watching women’s omnium on bbc; COME ON @LauraTrott31 !!!” Tweeted Sir Chris Hoy, who’s pretty much seen it all when it comes to track racing.
Five became four, became three. Each time Trott came from the back just rolling past the others to eliminate someone else from the race.
In the end it was just her and two time world omnium champion Tara Whitten. The Canadian had ridden the exact opposite tactic, sitting at the front, making the pace. Who would win?
In the final sprint here was little contest. Bouyed by a deafening crowd that she’d whipped in a frenzy, Trott rolled the Candian with ease.
“Dare I say it? Laura Trotted (sic) has just ridden the most crowd pleasing performance so far.” Tweeted Rob Hayles. Another rider who’s seen it all before.
A performance like that at the Olympics would see her heralded by every broadcaster in the park. A winning smile, cheeky, cockney temperament and talent beyond belief. Trott could be the star of this years Games.