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Canadian Zach Bell seventh after opening cycling omnium race

Canada's Zachary Bell competes in the track cycling men's omnium flying lap 250-metre time trial at the Velodrome during the London 2012 Olympic Games on Saturday.

Stefano Rellandini/Reuters News Agency

Canadian Zach Bell was seventh after the opening leg of the omnium in Olympic track cycling Saturday.

Britain's Edward Clancy led the 18-man field after taking the 250-metre flying lap in 12.556 seconds, the only man to break 13 seconds. Bell, a silver medallist in the omnium at the world championships earlier this year, was timed in 13.406.

The omnium covers six events over two days: flying lap, points race, elimination race, individual pursuit, scratch race and time trial. The winner in each one gets one point, the runner-up two points and so on, with the overall winner being the rider with the least total points.

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Bell, a 29-year-old from North Vancouver, who grew up in Watson Lake some 400 kilometres east of Whitehorse, is a former World Cup champion in the omnium. He placed seventh in the points race at the 2008 Games in Beijing.

Bell was fifth in the flying lap during the world championships omnium earlier this year.

In the men's sprint qualifying, Britain's Jason Kenny broke Sir Chris Hoy's Olympic record (9.815) when he was timed in 9.713. French world champion Gregory Bauge was second in 9.952.

Kenny's average speed over 200 metres was an eye-popping 74.127 kilometres per hour, fast enough for a speeding ticket on some nearby roads. The world record is 9.572 seconds.

Spectators sweated it out at the raucous 6,000-seat Velodrome, where the temperature is kept at 28 degrees Celsius for optimum racing conditions. A series of sliding doors also helped prevent any gusts of air hitting the track.

No one seemed to care in the intimate, low-slung building where every seat has a great view.

The track is laid with some 56 kilometres of timber from Siberian pine, fixed in place with more than 300,000 nails.

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Canadians Tara Whitten, Gillian Carleton and Jasmin Glaesser took on world champion Britain later in the day in the women's team pursuit, a new Olympic event.

The day started with men's sprint qualifying, where riders take two and a half laps to build speed and then rocket around the bottom of the 250-metre track for their timed 200-metre run.

The crowd roared as each rider rocketed past them. Spanish rider Hodel Mazquiaran Uria, however, lost his saddle midway through his sprint. He was allowed to race again.

Shane Jenkins, an Australian with tree trunks for thighs, was the first to go under 10 seconds on the day, posting a time of 9.987. He placed third.

Riders were then seeded for the 1/16 finals, which shifted to head-to-head competition, with Kenny getting a bye. Following track tradition, he came to the starting line alone, waved to the crowd and then headed back into the infield.

The men's sprint runs through Monday.

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