American teenager Taylor Phinney continued his quest for a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team on Wednesday, lowering his personal best time in the men's individual pursuit by more than two seconds and recording a new world-record time for a junior.
His mark of 4:22:358 placed him eighth in his first-ever International Cycling Union (UCI) Track World Championships while his time of 3:17.523 at the 3-kilometer mark - the distance juniors typically race - surpassed the previous world record of 3:17.775 set by Michael Ford (AUS) in 2004.
Phinney's previous personal best over four kilometers was 4:24.364.
According to unofficial calculations, Phinney should retain his top-three overall international ranking in the UCI's men's individual pursuit standings. Only a top-five ranking is needed for the United States to secure a start position in Beijing.
Phinney's mark of 4:25.684 at the third round of the UCI Track World Cup in Los Angeles two months ago surpassed the automatic time standard set by USA Cycling to earn an automatic nomination to the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team pending confirmation of an American start position by the UCI.
"When I came here I was wanting and expecting to ride under 4:20," said Phinney after his qualifying round. "But I'm happy with the time I rode and it should secure a spot for the Olympics."
On a fast, newly resurfaced track inside the Manchester Velodrome, second-seeded Bradley Wiggins (GBR) claimed the world title with a time of 4:18.519 in the final. After earning the top seed in the afternoon's qualifying session, Jenning Huizenga (NED) took home the silver medal in 4:23.474. In the consolation round, Alexei Markov (RUS) defeated Hayden Roulston (NZL) for the final spot on the podium.
"I rode the first lap a little too slow," said Phinney of his 16-lap effort. "I just couldn't quite get on top of the gear. Then I didn't want to go too fast and take everything out of me trying to make up for it. I usually finish fast, so I think if I could have gotten on top of the gear a little sooner I would have been a little faster. At this stage, every pursuit is a learning experience for me. I just have to get everything dialed in for the Olympics."
With the 2007-08 international track cycling season for Phinney now complete, the 17-year-old Boulder High School student will now set his sights on the upcoming road season. This spring he'll travel to Europe to compete in major junior-level international races before defending his world title in the time trial at the UCI Junior Road and Track World Championships in South Africa this July.
"I'm definitely looking forward to competing in some longer races," explained Phinney, comparing the last five months of training for and racing in his newfound 4-kilometer specialty to the road racing circuit.
The 2008 UCI Track Cycling World Championships continue on Thursday as Sarah Hammer (Temecula, Calif.) hopes to win her third consecutive world title in the women's individual pursuit. Americans also scheduled to compete on Thursday include Blatchford, Duvendeck and Massie in the individual sprint event.
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