Nicholas Paul

(Flashback)PODIUM FINISH: Nicholas Paul

TEAM TTO standout cyclist Nicholas Paul nearly pulled an upset on world champion Harrie Lavreysen in the men’s sprint final, but had to settle for silver at the second round of the UCI Champions League at the Cido Arena in Panevezys, Lithuania, yesterday.

The experienced, speedy Dutchman had enough in the tank to overtake the Trini speedster at the line.

Lavreysen lifted his hand as he crossed the finish line. He had survived a well-executed race plan by the 23-year-old Paul, the explosive sprinter who converted the event into a “long” sprint by going early on the second of the three-lap event. Paul successfully sprung a surprise on the “Flying Dutchman”, jumping to a 15-metre lead, and looked set to stave off any potential challenge. But the powerful Lavreysen proved a gritty character.

He gradually whittled down that lead until turning the last bend for home. Spectators knew Lavreysen would reel the TTO sprinter in, as the current Pan American Elite Track Cycling men’s sprint champion tired a bit from his earlier exertions.

There was no shame in losing to a world champion as Lavreysen shared words of consolation with Paul after the hard-fought race.

Earlier, in semi-final two, Paul overcame German rider Steffan Botticher and Russian Cycling Federation cyclist Mikael Iakolev after deploying the same early sprint tactic, launching a massive attack that neither of the other two could respond to.

“There’s a reason he’s the world record holder over 200 metres,” a blog stated.

Lavreysen easily dismissed Kevin Quintero of Colombia and Russian Cycling Federation’s Denis Dmitriev in semi-final one.

Even earlier, in the first round, Paul rode against Max Levy and Tom Derache. Levy pushed Paul all the way but the TTO rider judged correctly as he passed him on the line.

In the men’s keirin first round, Paul failed to advance in a heat with the Netherlands’ Jeffrey Hoogland, France’s Derache, Canada’s Hugo Barrette, Germany’s Levy and Russia’s Dmitriev.

In a physical race with some bumping, Hoogland out-powered the competition, while Dmitriev’s sharp move on the penultimate lap put him in position to finish second and advance.

After last evening’s two performances, Paul (41 pts) remained in fourth position in the Men’s sprint standings, behind Lavreysen (77 pts), Botticher (59 pts) and Hoogland (47 pts).

Paul is one of the world’s top 72 cyclists (36 male, 36 female) at the six-round season-ending Champions League.

The star-studded line-up includes the best performers at the 2021 UCI Tissot Track Cycling World Championships, joining a prestigious list of pre-qualified riders.

After this weekend’s Champions League round, Paul will have three remaining rounds of competition in London (December 3 and 4), and the competition-ending event in Tel Aviv, Israel (December 11).

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