By Julien Pretot
LONDON (Reuters) - Triple world champion Gregory Bauge of France and Briton Jason Kenny looked in a class of their own as they finally got into action to ease into the quarter-finals of the Olympic individual sprint on Saturday.
Both riders were without an opponent in the last 16 when the event turned into a farce earlier on Saturday.
Kenny clocked the fastest time in the qualifying 200 metre flying lap used to seed the riders but, with 17 competitors at the start, the 2011 world champion had no opponent.
Kenny actually took the start of his last 16 match against his non-existent opponent wearing a training helmet, completed half a lap and saluted the crowd with a rather embarrassed look on his face.
Earlier, Kenny had laid down a marker, averaging more than 74 kph to set an Olympic record of 9.713 seconds in the flying lap.
Second in the qualifying lap was triple world champion Gregory Bauge, who did not even get on the bike in the last 16 after his Greek opponent failed to show up, ahead of Australian Shane Perkins and German Robert Forstemann.
Perkins advanced into the quarter-finals after his opponent was relegated for stealing the sprinter's line.
Forstemann stumbled to an unexpected defeat to Njisane Nicholas Phillip of Trinidad and Tobago but won a three-man repechage to go through to Sunday's quarter-finals.
Seventeen riders take part in the individual sprint competition after a new International Cycling Union (UCI) rule limiting each nation to one rider per event.
It meant that on Saturday, only five of the top 10 riders from the world championships started the individual sprint event and that Beijing champion Chris Hoy of Britain cannot defend his title after being omitted in favour of Kenny.
Kenny, however, lived up to expectations, toying with Bernard Esterhuizen of South Africa to advance seemingly effortlessly into the next round.
Bauge was even more impressive in a straightforward defeat of Japan's Seiichiro Nakagawa.
"Everything is going alright," a relaxed Bauge told reporters. "I had a match less than most of my opponents so that's a good thing. I can spare energy, which I will need when it gets more intense."