TORONTO -- It was the matchup Team USA wanted. The United States verse Canada with the gold medal on the line at the 2015 Pan American Games in women’s team pursuit track cycling.
But in the end, it was not the result Team USA wanted. Canada broke a Pan Am record and won the gold on home soil. Americans Jennifer Valente, Sarah Hammer, Kelly Catlin and Ruth Winder took home silver.
“To be brutally honest, we were going for the gold medal,” said Hammer, a two-time Olympic silver medalist at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
The two countries stayed fairly even through the first 2,000 meters, with Team USA leading by four tenths of a second.
At the halfway mark, the Canadians picked up the pace to take a four-second lead on the U.S. The Americans never regained the lead and finished nearly seven seconds behind the Canadians.
Canada set a Pan American Games record of 4:19.664, while the U.S. finished in 4:26.426. Mexico won bronze after outracing Colombia.
“For three of us on the team, we’ve never been to the Olympics or to Pan Ams, so it’s a really good test run to come together as a team before Rio,” Valente said.
“It’s been a fresh reboot for me after London,” Hammer said of her new teammates. “They keep me on my toes. A couple of them try to stick it to me every day in training so I always have to watch my back. They never walked in and looked me and said, ‘Oh, you’re Sarah Hammer.’ They said, ‘Oh, it’s Sarah. We have to kick her butt.’ I need that. I think we have a really good momentum leading into Rio.”
“We just need to work on strength and speed,” Winder said. “It’s cycling and this sport in particular is all done on the clock and how fast can you go. We just have to be faster.”
“We had a better ride than that,” Hammer said. “We came to win the gold, not to win the silver. We went full gas and if you don’t go for it, you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Canada’s Kirsti Lay was quick to give credit to the Americans.
“They are such a strong team and they really brought it the last little bit,” said Lay. “We knew they were going to be really strong coming out, so we knew we had to bring our A game. We had to make a new strategy and use all the riders' strengths to the maximum here.”
In other action at the velodrome, Team USA’s Matt Baranoski finished just off the podium in fifth place in the men’s sprint.
“This was a huge test run for us,” Hammer said of the Pan Am Games. “It’s a fresh, exciting adventure.”