Cycling: England claim clean sweep despite near miss
Friday 17 March 2006
England's track cyclists had to negotiate a near-accident in a city centre street before earning their first-ever clean sweep of Commonwealth medals on the opening day of competition.
Paul Manning, Rob Hayles and Stephen Cummings, respectively gold, silver and bronze medallists in the individual pursuit, were almost knocked over by a car as they cycled to the arena from the Athletes' Village.
Manning, 31, from Sutton Coldfield said that such incidents went with the territory for cyclists. Five years ago he required two operations on his arm after a car knocked him off his bike near Stockport.
"More often than not you don't actually come off, but you'll have a close call," he said. "We had one on the way down here today - a driver not giving us any room. This guy decided to come very close, so we said, 'Why are you coming so close?' He didn't like it. Rob was challenging him because he thought he'd been drinking and he didn't really persist after that."
An individual gold had been a long time coming for Manning, who has been in the team since 1999 and earned a bronze at the last Commonwealth Games in Manchester.
Hayles had been seeking the same distinction since joining the team in 1993, and the top podium place appeared his for the taking halfway through the 4,000m ride, but he fell away finishing in 4min 28.616sec behind Manning, who recorded 4:23.799.
"I'm gutted," Hayles said. "I played to win."
Now both men are looking forward with confidence to tomorrow's team pursuit event, in which they both won gold at last year's World Championships.
"I had to go with about four laps left because I knew Rob had a really good finish," said Manning, who had posted the fastest qualifying time. "I knew I was in with a chance of a medal after getting bronze in Manchester.
"Now, I want to concentrate on the team event. Winning that would mean more to me and tonight's result has given us a lot of confidence."
A clean sweep of sorts had been predicted for the first night of the cycling, Scotland's Olympic 1km time-trial champion Chris Hoy suggested that the medals could be shared between himself, his team-mate Craig MacLean and England's 2000 Olympic champion, Jason Queally.
Hoy was nearly right as he and Queally made the podium, but not in the positions expected as the Englishman beat him, and both were beaten by a somewhat surprised home competitor, Ben Kersten.
Having ridden third from last, the young Australian grapsed victory as first Queally and then Hoy failed to better his time of 1: 01.815.
"I never expected to win," said Kersten. "These were unbeatable guys. As they went round one by one my emotions just took over."
England's medal tally was completed by a silver from Victoria Pendleton in the 500m time-trial behind Australia's Anna Meares.
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