New Zealand’s World Champion team sprint trio produced a stunning early season performance to claim the honours on the opening night of the UCI Oceania Championships in Cambridge.  The trio of Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster and Eddie Dawkins broke the New Zealand All Comers record with a time of 42.859, which was only 03.seconds off their best set at the Rio Olympics.

It sparked an excellent start to the programme with All Comers records also set by the Australian women’s sprint pairing of Kaarle McCulloch and Stephanie Morton and a stunning record effort from the Australian team pursuit quartet.

After Webster started off in the morning heat, the Kiwi team sprint reverted to their proven formula in the final with Mitchell giving them a cracking start on the way to a superb early-season result.  “That’s in our top five times ever so to achieve that so early in the season is pretty exciting for us,” said Dawkins. ‘We have got a busy schedule. We are on the plane on Saturday for our third World Cup in Canada and then we prepare for the world champs which are only a couple of weeks before the Commonwealth Games.”

It was the first time the trio had competed since their world championship victory earlier in the year.

“It’s a privilege to race at home in front of friends and family and to be able to do it in our rainbow jerseys is really special. Today’s result is a great confidence boost for us knowing what is ahead of us,” said Mitchell.

The fans were treated to a stunning effort from the Australian team pursuit quartet of world champions Kelland O’Brien and Nicholas Yallouris, individual pursuit world champion Jordan Kerby and three-time world champion Leigh Howard.

Rushlee Buchanan leads the women’s team pursuit on day 1 of the Oceania Track Championships, photo Dianne Manson

With massive competition for a spot in the team pursuit for Gold Coast, they were keen to make a statement in what is their Commonwealth Games trial, with their time of 3:52.421 among the top-10 fastest times in history.  To further factor into their performance was the time taken to overtake the Kiwi team, and a mix-up when two riders were caught up, forcing Kerby to overcome a 10m gap to his teammates on the penultimate lap.

Earlier Olympians Morton and McCulloch impressed in winning the women’s team sprint in 32.755 after setting an All Comers record in qualifying, bettering the time of the world champion Chinese at the Cambridge World Cup in 2015.

The New Zealand women’s team pursuit produced and excellent performance to clock 4:21.829, overtaking Australia in the process, to win the 4000m final.  The quartet of Bryony Botha, Rushlee Buchanan, Racquel Sheath and Michaela Drummond, coming in for Kirstie James in the final, were down early but had one second up at the halfway, three seconds ahead at 3000m and caught the Australians in the finishing straight.

“We have really only got together last week and this is probably our first serious hit-out to produce a strong time like that at this stage of the season is encouraging,” said Buchanan.  The competition continues until Thursday.

James returned to produce a powerful performance, putting a lap on the field, and controlling the pace to win the women’s 20km Points Race, finishing well clear of Australians Kristina Clonen and Chloe Moran.

While team pursuit world champion O’Brien (AUS) and five-time junior world champion Campbell Stewart were watching eachother in the 30kms points race, South Australia’s Joshua Harrison lapped the field twice to claim the honours. Stewart won the final double points sprint to claim second on countback.

In under-19 action it was a case of strong by name and strong by nature for Southland’s Corbin Strong, a medallist at the junior world championships, dominated the four-discipline omnium, winning the Tempo, the Elimination and the Points races to claim the title ahead of rookie George Jackson (Waikato BOP).

Australia prevailed in both Team Sprint finals; New Zealand claimed the women’s team pursuit while super-talented Nelson sprinter Shaane Fulton, who impressed at the world championships this year, claimed the 500m Time Trial in a slick 35.891s.

Tomorrow’s elite action includes the individual pursuit, women’s keirin, men’s time trial and scratch race.

The competition continues until Thursday.

Results:

Elite

Women Team Sprint:  Australia Gold 32.766, 1; New Zealand (Emma Cumming, Olivia Podmore) 33.863, 2; Australia Green 34.344, 3.

Men Team Sprint: New Zealand (Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster, Eddie Dawkins) 42.853, 1 (All Comers Record); Australia 43.342, 2; New Zealand 2 (Bradly Knipe, Zac Williams, Jordan Castle) 44.161, 3.

Women 4000m Team Pursuit: New Zealand (Bryony Botha, Rushlee Buchanan, Racquel Sheath, Michaela Drummond) 4:21.829, 1; Australia Gold OVL, 2; Australia Green 4:35.884, 3.

Men Team Pursuit:  Australia 3:52.421, 1 (All Comers Record); New Zealand (Jared Gray, Harry Waine, Nick Kergozou, Hugo Jones) OVL, 2; Australia Blue 4:02.088, 3.

Women 500m Time Trial: Kaarle McCulloch (AUS) 33.848, 1; Olivia Podmore (NZL) 35.027, 2; Breanna Hargrave (AUS) 35.097, 3.

Women 20km Points Race: Kirstie James (NZL) 36, Kristina Clonen (AUS) 18, 2; Chloe Moran (AUS) 13.

Men 30km Points Race: Josh Harrison (South Australia) 61 points, 1; Campbell Stewart (NZL) 37, 2; Kelland O’Brien (AUS) 37, 3.

Under-19

Women Team Sprint: Australia 36.529, 1; New Zealand (Sophie-Leigh Bloxham, Britney Greene) 36.649, 2; Australia 36.785, 3.

Men Team Sprint: Australia 46.237, 1; New Zealand (Conor Shearman, Angus Claasem, Patrick Clancy) no time, 2.

Women Team Pursuit: New Zealand (McKenzie Milne, Eva Parkinson, Ally Wollaston, Samantha Donnelly) 4:59.429, 1; New Zealand 2 (Emily Paterson, Annamarie Lipp, Samantha Ogle, Helena Rikiti) 5:58.905, 2.

Women 500m Time Trial: Shaane Fulton (NZL) 35.891, 1; Sophie-Leigh Bloxham (NZL) 36.394, 2; Nicole Marshall (NZL) 37.110, 3.

Men Omnium: Corbin Strong (Southland) 137, 1; George Jackson (Waikato BOP) 113, 2; Tom Lynch (NSW) 105, 3.

 

Photo:  Dianne Manson

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