The Vantage New Zealand team pursuit squads won gold and silver medals on the second day of their opening UCI Track World Cup campaign in Hong Kong.
The women’s development squad combination, with an average age just over 20 years, grabbed the gold medal in the 4000m team pursuit final after a brilliant burst gave them the lead for the first time three laps from the finish.
The team of Michaela Drummond, Emily Shearman, Nicole Shields and Ally Wollaston who came in for Jessie Hodges, clocked 4:19.653 to win by 0.8sec over Belgium who are third on the World Cup standings.
The Vantage New Zealand men’s team pursuit squad earned the silver medal after Germany took the lead just two laps from the finish in a gutsy display from the Kiwi men.
The team of Tom Sexton, Dylan Kennett, Nick Kergozou and Corbin Strong, coming in for Campbell Stewart for the final, clocked an impressive 3:52.655 in the final, leading to the 3500m mark until the Germans powered home to win by 0.7sec, with both teams averaging over 60kph.
Earlier the men’s team sprint trio of Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster and Eddie Dawkins had to settle for fourth after being pipped by the experienced French combination in the bronze medal ride, while the women’s team sprint pairing of Olivia Podmore and Ellesse Andrews finished 12th in qualifying.
The women’s team pursuit, who qualified fastest, produced an impressive performance to dominate Korea in the first round. They were ahead by over three seconds at the 2000m mark and were able to ease home over the final four laps to win in 4:24.999 by two seconds and book a place in the final.
The Alex Greenfield-coached team came up against a full-strength Belgium squad in the final, led by noted professional road rider Jolien D’Hoore, a former junior road champion and Olympic track medallist.
The Belgians, who had gone two seconds faster than the Kiwis in their first round, put the heat on to open a one second lead at 1000m and stretched it to 1.3sec at the halfway mark. The youthful Kiwis showed their resilience closing the gap to under a second at the 3000m mark, edging in front for the first time three laps from the finish.
They scooted home under 1:03 for the final 1000m, their fastest kilo of the race, to win by nearly a second in 4:19.653.
It proved a similar situation in reverse for the men’s team pursuit who produced a superb 3:51.628 effort in their first round, nearly three seconds faster than yesterday’s qualifying performance. The quartet of Campbell Stewart, Dylan Kennett, Nick Kergozou and Corbin Strong accounted for the Russian Federation by nearly four seconds to secure a place in the final against Germany who had gone fractionally faster.
The Vantage New Zealand team, who swapped Tom Sexton for Stewart who races the omnium competition tomorrow, made a flying start in the final. They were ahead by 0.4sec at the 1000m, closing to 0.1s at the halfway but easing over half a second clear at the 3000m.
The Germans produced a withering 56.1s for their final 1000m to edge ahead with a lap and a half to go, winning in 3:51.984 with the Kiwis half a second behind.
While it is the fourth World Cup competition for most of the European teams, the Vantage New Zealand women’s team pursuit is up to eighth overall and the men 10th after their first outing in the ultimate push for Tokyo Olympic qualification.
It was a case of work in progress for the men’s team sprint combination of Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster and Eddie Dawkins in development of an ambitious higher gearing on their bikes this year.
They were third fastest in qualifying in 43.618s behind world champions Netherlands and the super-experienced French. While the Dutch combination were a class above, clocking 42.276 in the first round, there was only 0.1sec separating Germany, France and New Zealand.
Germany edged into the final where they were no match for the Dutch, leaving the Kiwis to take on perennial rivals France for the bronze medal. New Zealand found their usual stellar start but the French rode over the top in the final lap to pip the Kiwis by 0.3sec.
The action continues overnight with Stewart sporting the rainbow jersey in the men’s omnium, Drummond in the scratch race, Andrews and Natasha Hansen in the individual sprint, and Callum Saunders in the keirin.
The competition concludes overnight Sunday before the focus turns to round four of the Tissot UCI Track World Cup at the Avantidrome in Cambridge on 6 to 8 December.