Britain?s Chris Newton has blasted through to his first Olympic medal in the men?s points race ? a bronze behind Joan Llanares of Spain and Roger Kluge of Germany.
Lapping the field twice allowed Newton to leapfrog his way up the classification from seventh into second thanks to the 20-point bonuses, before finally dropping back to third in the last lap after a late attack by Kluge.
This was no disgrace. For a rider who was on the backfoot after breaking his collarbone earlier this year, bronze in a race as challenging as the points was a fine achievement.
The 2002 world points race champion played a cunning game strategically in the Laoshan velodrome, picking up points slowly but steadily in the first half before blasting off in an all-out attack halfway through the 160-lap race.
Working with Kluge to chase down Llanares, the three ended up lapping the field. That put Kluge ? who?d already taken an early lap ? into the overall lead, with Llanares and Newton his closest chasers.
The next big move closer to medal glory came when Newton joined another attack by Llanares ? leaving Kluge in their wake. The Spaniard and Briton eventually ended up lapping the field. Now Llanares was provisional leader, with Newton in second and Kluge, presumably not the happiest of campers at having been caught napping, in third.
With less than 30 laps to go and riders tiring, gold looked certain for veteran Spanish star Llanares ? riding his last Olympics at the ripe old age of 39 ? and bronze and silver was coming down to a duel between Newton and Kluge, tied on points.
Losing strength, Newton was unable to react when Kluge went for it with two laps to go, but he hung on for a well-deserved bronze. The first, but by no means the last medal, on a very special night for British cycling ? was very much in the bag for the 34-year-old.
?Bronze was a great result,? Newton said afterwards, ?I would have liked silver but I?d already made my move and there was nothing I could do when Kluge went for it.
?It?s not nerve-wracking, it?s kind of funny cos you?ve got loads of energy but you?ve got to wait for second part to go for the laps. You can go for sprints but it?s that energy you?re going to need to get the laps and for the last part of the race.
?You have to trickle the energy out, when everybody else is on their knees, that?s when you?ve got to go.?
Asked if it was a bit too much to go for two laps in a points race, Newton pointed out that ?The last Olympics was won with [a rider taking] four laps, and then at the world champs in Manchester, nobody took any at all, so it just depends on how things are going. You want big gains, not small ones.”
Asked to compare it with the team pursuit medals he?s taken in the past, Newton said: ?This is all a bit more emotional, it?s the work you?ve done personally and that your family?s done, I?ve got to plan it all – so it?s very, very satisfying.?
|OLYMPIC GAMES 2008: TRACK|
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|OLYMPIC GAMES 2008: GUIDE|
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