It was mission accomplished for the Vantage New Zealand track cycling team who completed their Tissot UCI Worlds Cup campaign after collecting seven medals in Brisbane.
Limiting their focus to three of the six world cup competitions in Hong Kong, Cambridge and Brisbane, New Zealand has ticked all the boxes to secure starts in all key events for February’s world championships in Germany.
Cycling New Zealand high performance director, Martin Barras said he was pleased with performances in the key Olympic events and they can now plan the build-up to the world championships and from that point secure qualification for the Tokyo Olympics.
“Overall I am delighted with the performances in our core endurance events, particularly team pursuit for both men and women, who have both produced near world record rides from the women in Cambridge and the men in Brisbane,” said Barras.
“We are leading the way in the men’s omnium and madison competitions and we have now secured our women’s omnium position which is important if we are to take five endurance riders to Tokyo.
“The team sprint has secured their placings for the world championships for men and women and with the keirin also.
“There’s been performances in numbers, and the depth in the endurance stocks has never been as strong, while we are now also building some depth in the sprint as well.
“The riders can enjoy a short break but will be back hard at work in the New Year to prepare for a very important world championship.”
Gate superb in omnium
Aaron Gate enjoyed a blast from the past with a dominant victory in the omnium on Saturday.
Gate, the 2013 omnium world champion, confirmed his sparkling return to the Vantage New Zealand track squad. Last week he played a pivotal part in the team pursuit success and partnered current omnium world champion Campbell Stewart to win the madison at Cambridge World Cup.
With Stewart focussing on team pursuit in Brisbane, Cycling New Zealand has an excellent insurance policy in Gate, after the 29-year-old dominated a strong field at the Anna Meares Velodrome.
Gate made a hot start, finishing second behind Japan’s Eiya Hashimoto in the 10km scratch race after the leading three riders broke clear. It was a similar pattern in the 10km tempo race, where one point is awarded for each lap leader, with Gate among four riders to put a lap on the field to gain 20 bonus points.
The kiwi was caught out when blocked on the inside of the track to exit early in the elimination race, which left him six points behind Hashimoto and eight clear of Germany’s Roger Kluge going into the pivotal 25km points race.
Gate dominated from the get-go, gaining points from the first six sprints including a win and four second placings. He also took up the chase of nine-time world champion Cameron Meyer (AUS), and in doing so, both riders gained the 20 points bonus for lapping the field.
It gave the Vantage New Zealand rider an 18-point advantage on Kluge and 21 points on Hashimoto with laps running out. However both challengers were spent from Gate’s fierce attacks over the first half of the 25km race to mount any further serious attacks.
He finished winning the points race to tally 134 points overall with Kluge second on 116 and Hashimoto third on 113.
Silver stars on final day
The final night of competition in Brisbane produced three more medals and excellent efforts from the Vantage New Zealand riders.
The medals came from a silver to Sam Webster in the individual sprint, silver to Aaron Gate and Tom Sexton in the omnium and a bronze medal to Holly Edmondston in the women’s omnium.
Webster showed superb speed, breaking the New Zealand record for the flying 200m with his 9.647s effort in qualifying for the individual sprint, edging the previous mark set by teammate Ethan Mitchell at the same track at the Commonwealth Games.
Mitchell won two match-race rounds before he was eliminated in the quarterfinal in two straight rides, but Webster prevailed, going on to beat former world champion Mathew Glaetzer (AUS) in two rides in the semifinal. He found in-form Polish rider Mateusz Rudyk a bridge too far with the Cambridge winner adding Brisbane to his palmares in two straight rides with Webster claiming the silver.
Twenty-four hours after his exploits in dominating the omnium on Saturday, Gate teamed with Sexton to produce an excellent second placing behind Australia in the 50km madison.
They rode with purpose and acumen, fighting back after Sexton crashed heavily early in the race, returning bloodied into the battle.
“I was quite worried because it was a big crash and was circulating while they checked him for concussion and also had to find a new bike,” said Gate.
The Kiwi pairing piled on the pressure, picking up points in 12 consecutive sprints to move one point behind leaders Australia after responding to a massive attack from their perennial rivals who had lapped the field. By the time the Kiwis had also gained the 20 bonus points, Australia kicked again with 17 laps remaining, winning the final two sprints for victory.
The replacement bike for Sexton unfortunately had a higher gearing than he is used to, which left him completely spent over the closing laps.
Australians Cameron Meyer and Sam Welsford finished on 76 points with New Zealand an impressive second on 60 with France third on 41.
“I felt sorry for Tommy because it was doubly hard work with the different gearing on the bike, let alone recovering from the fall. He was smashed at the finish, still we had to be nice and let the Australians win on their home track, right,” joked Gate.
Edmondston steps up to omnium podium
The Vantage New Zealand team may have found another option for the omnium with Edmondston finishing third overall in the four-discipline competition.
She was seventh in the opening 7.5km scratch race, narrowly avoiding a major collision in the process, and was fourth in the tempo after a late push to the front. Edmondston had an early scare in the elimination but finished seventh, only just edged out when she appeared safe, to lie fourth overall going into the points race.
She rode strongly until race favourite, Annette Edmondson (AUS) crashed heavily and did not return to the race, boosting the kiwi up to third. She was then involved in a battle with Italian Vittoria Guazzini, cleverly allowing other riders to break clear for the final sprint to deny the Italian any points.
American Jennifer Valente won on 139 points from Canada’s Allison Beveridge with Edmondston on 100 and Guazzini one point behind.
Earlier both Natasha Hansen and Ellesse Andrews won their respective first round rides in the keirin, both drawing the same semifinal. Andrews pushed from the back to lead, providing cover for Hansen, who bided her time to sprint to the win to secure a spot in the final.
Andrews was edged out in fifth but in good company with current world champion Wai Sze Lee behind her. She went on to finish third in the consolation final with a powerful ride from the back to hold off Lee for the second time.
The final was an aggressive affair with in-form Colombian Martha Bayona Pineda out-lasting local star Steph Morton for the title, with Hanson fifth in an excellent performance.
The Vantage New Zealand team return home on Monday where they have a break over Christmas before returning to training in the New Year.