France "too strong" for Britain in team sprint final

By Justin Davis, AFP | Thursday, March 27, 2008 1.30am

Reigning champions France successfully defended their men's team sprint crown after overpowering Britain in the final here at the world track cycling championships on Wednesday.

France, who shook up their three-man team for the final, took gold in a new world best time of 43.271 seconds, leaving Britain to pick up the silver medal for the third year in a row after they finished half a second adrift.

The Netherlands took the bronze after beating Germany in their medal match-up.

France have now won the team sprint event seven times in the past decade at the world championships, compared to Britain's two victories, in 2002 and 2005.

Britain's lead-off man Jamie Staff, who had concentrated all his efforts this year in the team sprint, admitted France had simply been too strong.

"The French have always been the team to beat in this event and they've got a lot of strength in depth, although that's something we're trying to develop too," he told AFP.

In the end, Staff's sterling efforts in the first lap proved no match to that of Gregory Bauge, who led France to a 17.02sec first lap before Kevin Sireau came over the white line in 29.926 ahead of Scotland's Ross Edgar.

It then fell to another Scot, Chris Hoy, to close the slight deficit in a final lap duel with old French foe Arnaud Tournant.

His surprise inclusion in France's final team, at the expense of Mickael Bourgain, paid dividends with the kilometre world record holder powering his way to victory ahead of Hoy.

Tournant, who had lost his team sprint anchor place to Bourgain prior to the championships despite being in every one of France's eight previous victorious teams since 1997, said he gave it everything he had.

"When you've been a part of every winning (team sprint) team since 1997, it's hard to watch the others racing. No one can point the finger at me and say I haven't been professional," said Tournant, who has now won 14 world titles.

When he found out he had been put in the final team, Tournant didn't need to be told twice what to do.

"I knew it could be the final team sprint of my career," said Tournant, who is set to retire after the Olympics in Beijing. "I just went out and gave it everything I had."

France had earlier told Bourgain that his place as anchor man for the final, if France reached it, would depend on how he performed against his rivals in the qualifying rounds.

In qualifying the fastest third lap in all was set by Ukraine's finisher. Although Bourgain beat Hoy's qualifying lap, he finished second from the entire field, and that was enough for the France team to change their minds.

The duel between Bourgain and Tournant for the coveted third spot in the team sprint for the Olympics now looks to continue, although Tournant's third lap in the final was only slightly faster than Bourgain's.

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