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Olympic champion Kelsey Mitchell takes silver at Nations Cup track cycling

Kelsey Mitchell (256) of Canada races Martha Bayona Pineda (269) of Colombia in the Women's Sprint semi-finals at the UCI Track Nations Cup in Milton, Ont., Friday, May 13, 2022. Mitchell settled for a silver medal in the women's sprint competition at the Tissot UCI Track Nations Cup on Friday night. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power

MILTON, Ont. — Canadian cyclist Kelsey Mitchell had a specific gameplan for the women's sprint final against Germany's Emma Hinze on Friday night at the Tissot UCI Track Nations Cup.

"I wanted to make it hurt," she said. "I wanted to make it hurt for her and me."

Mission accomplished on that front. It just didn't pay off with a gold medal.

The painful grind from a blistering final two laps was evident as the rivals pushed each other in the best-of-three final on the Mattamy National Cycling Centre track. After taking the opener, the world champ finished a whisker ahead of the Tokyo Olympic champ in the second round, forcing the Canadian to settle for silver.

"I tried to push her," Mitchell said. "I tried to come around but I didn't have the gap right on either round. If there was a third round maybe I would have it but it's not the case. You've got to cross the line first and unfortunately I didn't do that."

Hinze had an edge of 0.019 seconds in the first round -- about half a wheel -- and clinched the win in a photo finish, topping Mitchell by just 0.008 seconds.

Lauriane Genest of Levis, Que., missed the podium after dropping both rounds of the third-place race to Colombia's Pineda Bayona. Mathias Guillemette of Trois-Rivieres, Que., also took fourth place in the men's elimination race.

Genest, who won keirin bronze in Tokyo, teamed with Mitchell, Calgary's Sarah Orban and Toronto's Jackie Boyle to win team sprint bronze on Thursday.

In other Canadian women's results Friday, Ariane Bonhomme of Gatineau, Que., was sixth in the individual pursuit and Adele Desgagnes of Montreal was seventh. Sarah Van Dam of Victoria was sixth in the elimination race and Calgary's Ngaire Barraclough was 16th in the scratch race.

In the men's scratch race, Jackson Kinniburgh of Calgary was 10th.

Mitchell, a varsity soccer player at university, transitioned to track cycling in 2017. She won three medals at the Canadian championship a year later and won gold at the Pan Am Games in 2019.

Brimming with confidence after her Olympic gold last summer, Mitchell took sprint gold at last month's Nations Cup in Glasgow.

"Some athletes compete for many years and they don't capitalize on what they are doing," said Canadian sprint track head coach Franck Durivaux. "But every race she's doing, every competition, every training (session), it's an opportunity for her to capitalize and be better.

"I think it's because she has the maturity, she's smart and she loves what she's doing."

Mitchell, from Sherwood Park, Alta., was in top form ahead of the final but Hinze found the tactical advantage and carried her speed through to the finish.

"Fighting for the line is a very painful experience but it's so rewarding when you win," she said. "It just motivates you that much more when it's that close knowing that you can beat that person. I'll see her again for sure.

"I think the races will continue to be close and hopefully I'll take some wins."

Mitchell will enjoy an off-day Saturday before racing in the keirin on Sunday.

The Nations Cup is essentially a rebranded World Cup. Instead of the usual six-event tour, the track cycling circuit has been trimmed to three stops with stiffer competition.

This is the fourth year -- and first since early 2020 -- that the Mattamy National Cycling Centre has hosted a Nations Cup/World Cup event.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 13, 2022.

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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press