With the World Champs approaching I thought it might be fun to honour some of the greats of the past by “staging” an “All-time” World champs. I can’t promise to get to every event, but we’ll see where we get to. When assessing athletes from different eras, I find it useful to distinguish between the “greatest” and the “best”. Because of progression in training, sports science and equipment, it’s likely that the “best” or “fastest” in the case of cycling are either today’s champions or those of the recent past. That does not however, necessarily make them the “greatest”. Greatness encompasses a wider set of factors, including dominance, achievement, ability and even style. For the purposes of this championship, I will be using greatness as the currency of choice.
In terms of format, we’ll stick as close to an actual championships as possible, but with modifications where necessary. We’ll limit entries to two per nation, for example and limit the size of fields. But for the timed disciplines we will forego qualifying rounds and move straight into the knock-out phase. So with that, I pronounce the All-Time World Track Cycling Championships to be open!
Lutz Hesslich (Ger) v Peder Pederson (Den)
Easy one for the twice Olympic champ Hesslich over 1974 World Pro champ.
Daniel Morelon (Fra) v Denis Dmitrev (Rus)
No problem for the legendary Morelon
Jens Fiedler (Ger) v Omar Pkhak’adze
Fiedler perhaps had more trouble beating Michael Hubner to make the German than he did the Olympic bronze medalist from Georgia.
Antonio Maspes (Ita) v Jan Derksen (Ned)
Maspes’ seven World titles, versus Derksen’s two, tells the take.
Jeff Scherens (Bel) v Marty Northstein (USA)
A good battle, but the 7-times World champ from Belgium had just too much acceleration.
Chris Hoy (GBR) v Theo Bos (Ned)
Two contemporaries slugging it out, but when push came to shove, Hoy generally had the upper hand.
Frank Kramer (USA) v Sergey Kopylev (Rus)
Kopylev mixed it wit the East Germans in the 80s, but couldn’t handle the 1912 World and 16-time US champ.
Reg Harris (GBR) v Patrick Sercu
A great battle between Harris – preferred to Olympic champ Jason Kenny – and Six-day legend Sercu who won three sprint world titles but was probably better in the TT.
Gary Niewand (Aus) v Anton Tkac (Cze)
Mr.Bridesmaid from Australia had just enough to handle the 1976 Olympic champ.
Koichi Nakano (Jap) v Curtis Harnett (Can)
We’ll never know how 10-time World pro champ Nakano would have gone against the great amateurs of his day, but here he handled two-time Olympic sprint bronze medalist Harnett with relative ease.
Florient Rousseu (Fra) v Giuseppe Beghetto (Ita)
A battle of two three-time World champs, but Rousseau’s great strength – as witnessed by Olypic TT and Kierin golds – saw him win through.
Gordon Singleton (Can) v Ryan Bayley (Aus)
Consistent excellence versus a short high peak. The Canadian sneaks this one.
Tough racing here, but for heats of three saw Bayley, Tkac, Bos and Beghetto come through.
Hesslich v Beghetto
Tougher this time for Hesslich, but advances with something to spare,
Morelon v Bos
Bos had power, but Morelon has too much all around game for the Dutchman
Fiedler v Tkac
The consistent German sails through.
Maspes v Bayley
No trouble for the menacing Italian.
Scherens v Singleton
Scherens jumps Singleton and JUST holds on.
Hoy v Rousseu
Two all around sprint legends, but Hoy brought his A game when it mattered.
Kramer v Nakano
Those who doubted the credentials of teh Japanese pro got an answer here as the American legend was swept aside.
Harris v Niewand
Two great Olympic silver medalists. But Harris has the better CV overall.
Hesslich v Harris
A battle to the end, but Hesslich, who might have won three Olympic golds but for the boycott in 84, prevailed in the end.
Morelon v Nakano
A heavyweight battle in which the French amateur star sneaks by the pro champ.
Fiedler v Hoy
An upset here.Twice Olympic, but never World sprint champ Fielder, is overhauled by Hoy, the only man to win Olympic titles in all four sprint disciplines.
Maspes v Scherens
Two champions of yesteryear battling to the end, with the Italian squeezing through in a nail-biter.
Hesslich v Maspes
Even the formidable Italian can’t stop the Hesslich train.
Morelon v Hoy
Pure sprinter versus all round speedster. Grater actical experience sees Morelon through.
Maspes v Hoy
Lack of sprint experience again sees Hoy lose out.
Hesslich v Morelon
There can’t be too much doubt that these are the two greatest sprinters of all-time. Both won two Olympic golds and while Morelon also won silver, Hesslich was denied the opportunity of three in a row by the Moscow boycott. He would almost certainly have bettered champion Mark Gorski, but his East German team mates, as well as Kopylev would have ensured the title was not a formality. Morelon won nine amateur titles and generally unbeatable in his prime, whereas Hesslich won four and was runner up three times. Those defeats leeave just enough room for Morelon to sneak through and claim the all-time crown.