IZU, Japan (AP) — The Danish team of Lasse Norman Hansen and Michael Morkov won the return of the men’s Madison to the track cycling program at the Olympics, helping to atone Saturday for a disappointing silver medal in the team pursuit.
Hansen and Morkov won just three of the 20 sprints but were consistent enough through the 200-lap race to finish with 43 points. That was three more than Britain, which earned silver on a tiebreaker, and France, which took the bronze.
The much-loved Madison, once a staple of track cycling, returned to the Olympic program for the first time since the 2008 Beijing Games. In fact, three riders who took part in the last Madison were still around 13 years later for its return: Morkov of Denmark, Kenny de Ketele of Belgium and Germany’s Roger Kluge.
The race involves teams of two whipping each other around in a relay. One rider is considered in the race at a time, though they can switch at any juncture, and points are awarded to the top four finishers in each 10-lap segment.
It’s a race that requires sprinting ability to gain points, the endurance to ride 200 laps of the 250-meter velodrome — for a total of 50 kilometers — along with tactics, teamwork and just a little bit of daredevil attitude.
That’s because with so many riders at once, and the frequent of hand-offs, crashes happen regularly. The American team of Adrian Hegyvary and Gavin Hoover actually took each other out of Saturday’s race just after the midway point.
Also important? Team spotters in the stands, whose constant yelling in a dozen different languages provided a colorful and uniquely Olympic soundtrack for a race requiring total concentration for more than 50 minutes.
Hansen and Morkov trailed Britain by a point at the halfway mark and led the French by a point with five sprints left. They pushed their lead to four points with just sprints remaining — the last worth double points — and wound up taking third in the penultimate sprint and fourth in the finale to secure the gold medal.
The British team of Ethan Hayter and Matthew Walls won the last sprint to catapult into the silver medal. That dropped the French team of Benjamin Thomas and Donavan Grondin to bronze.
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