Cycling New Zealand’s track team enjoyed a strong start to their campaign at the final UCI World Cup in Los Angeles yesterday. The world champion men’s team pursuit topped qualifiers in the afternoon session at the VELO Sports Centre south of the city.
Later in the evening the women’s team pursuit finished second fastest in their qualifying session.
The team sprint trio of Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster and Eddie Dawkins were fastest in 43.588s, which was nearly half a second faster than second seeds Germany, the only two teams under the 44 second barrier.
There is a new racing system in place this year, with the fastest eight teams through to the first round, which does not take place until Monday (NZ time). New Zealand are paired against Russia, but the two fastest times among the eight teams will go through to the final, while the other two winning teams will ride off for the bronze medal. Today Mitchell and Webster will contest the individual sprint competition.
The women’s quartet of Rushlee Buchanan, Michaela Drummond, Jaime Nielsen and Racquel Sheath were second fastest to Rio Olympic silver medallists USA in qualifying in the 4000m event.
The Kiwis clocked 4:22.490 to be 1.5 seconds slower than the Americans but ahead of Canada who pipped them for the bronze medal in Rio.
New Zealand take on the Canadians in the first round tomorrow, with the winner going through to the gold medal ride against the winner of USA and Italy later in the evening session.
Other Kiwis in action today include Natasha Hansen in the keirin, Tom Sexton in the scratch race and Campbell Stewart in the omnium.
Men Team Sprint qualifying: New Zealand 43.588, 1; Germany 43.983, 2; Poland 44.275, 3; Belgium 44.618, 4.
Women 4000m team pursuit: USA 4:20.969, 1; New Zealand 4:22.490, 2; Canada 4:25.651, 3; Italy 4:29.653, 4.