Life is good if you’re part of the Junior Track team that is heading back from the UCI Junior World Track Championships in Aigle, Switzerland. At the end of this year’s championships, New Zealand topped the medals table with a mind boggling 9 medals including 4 new world champions. Missed anything? Let’s fill you in on the details.
Women’s Team Sprint
The 2016 championships got off to the best possible start for two riders from the South Island, with bags of talent, whose combined strengths saw them dominate in the team sprint. Emma Cumming from Invercargill and Ellesse Andrews from Wanaka were an unstoppable force as they first qualified second fastest in 28.304 seconds on the 200m track in Aigle. Then in the final they turned things up a gear, with their time of 28.006 seconds doing enough to ensure that Cumming and Andrews would become the first female combination to win sprint gold at the world junior championships.
Men’s Team Pursuit
A second gold medal never looked in doubt after the first day of racing. While the boys would have to wait overnight to be sure, the team of Campbell Stewart, Jared Gray, Tom Sexton and Josh Scott had laid the foundations for victory with their time of 4.03.704mins qualifying fastest by an impressive 2 seconds ahead of Denmark. In the final the team brought in Connor Brown to replace teammate Scott and never looked like settling for anything less than gold. After lapping trans-Tasman rivals Australia in the semi-final, the team booked their gold medal ride against Denmark convincingly. After Denmark’s strong start in the opening kilometre, the Kiwi quartet powered away to win gold, and in world record time. The time of 4.01.409 mins took more than a second off the previous junior world record; and echoed the win that a team containing riders of the calibre of Jesse Sergent, Wes Gough and Sam Bewley managed to achieve in 2005.
The list of accolades goes on and on and on for Campbell Stewart. They say that ‘real’ champions win twice. Well the Manawatu machine has ticked that box. Last year Stewart took scratch race and omnium honours, and at this point had already claimed a third world title in the team pursuit. This was his title defence, the race where all eyes would be on him. He was under the pump too in the points race finale. After finishing the first day in second place, victory in the 200m flying lap and second place in the kilo time trial put him in first place. But the points race saw him lose the lead, gain the lead, and lose the lead again before finally pulling away to win the omnium by just 6 points.
Nerves were escalating in the final of the men’s sprint. The gold medal final pitted two junior stars from opposite ends of the Tasman against each other. Kilo silver medallist Bradly Knipe would take on keirin champion Conor Rowley of Australia. 1-1 going into the decider, Knipe trailed early on in the final ride, but a sharp acceleration saw him draw level going around the back straight and final bend; and then pull ahead at the death to win gold and claim New Zealand’s fourth world title of the championships.
Women’s Team Pursuit
After the glorious world record breaking performance of yesteryear, the question was, could the women’s team pursuit back up the ride that saw them rule the world in 2015? Michaela Drummond, Emily Shearman, Kate Smith and Nicole Shields were on course for something special at the end of qualifying when they were denied top spot by just 0.3 seconds. Alas what promised to be more glittering gold was dashed in the cruellest way in the final. New Zealand went up against Italy for another set of rainbow jerseys, but a crash part way through the ride put the team on the back foot. Despite rallying, and rallying very well, the Italians pulled away; with New Zealand putting up a courageous silver medal.
At the end of day one, Michaela Drummond was looking at a bronze to go with her silver medal. She gave further gravitas to that with fourth in the 500m time trial and 3rd in the flying lap. But it was the points race that saw her rise again. In her way was Canada’s Maggie Coles-Lyster, but Drummond was not to be denied her second silver medal of the 2016 world junior championships; and a brilliant points race saw her come through in style; adding yet more accolades to a definitely swelling medal tally.
Men’s kilo time trial
If you had one shot, one opportunity, to seize silverware over just 1000m . . . . Bradly Knipe was going to take this chance. Knipe and teammate Tom Sexton rode for New Zealand over the kilo distance, with Sexton placing tenth with a time of 1.04.115. But the national junior champion would push eventual winner Stefan Fitter all the way to the line. Knipe’s ride was brilliant, fastest through the opening time checks; gold looked to be his with just 300m left. But that is where the Canadian’s strength prevailed, and Knipe came home with the second fastest time by just 0.2 seconds. Knipe and Fitter were the only riders that day to stop the clock in sub-1.02mins, with Knipe finishing in 1.01.897.
What better way to end the championships than to send two stars of the event around the track hand in hand, literally, to take New Zealand’s ninth medal of an incredibly successful championships. Campbell Stewart and Tom Sexton were up against it with a rapid Swiss pair blasting away the rest of the field, but New Zealand would have their say in the fight for silver. Three of the seven sprints went their way in a battle against Australia. The pair also managed to gain a lap to make sure that yet another medal would come their way; and that Campbell Stewart would become the most successful Kiwi rider in the world junior championship history.
Women’s Individual Pursuit
The women’s individual pursuit saw more records tumble as the gold medal went to Russian Maria Novolodskaya in world record time for the 2000m discipline. For New Zealand though there was the prospect of further silverware in the bag, courtesy of Nicole Shields and Ellesse Andrews. Both riders had already enjoyed success in the championships with silver going to both in the team pursuit and team sprint respectively. But it was sprinter turned endurance rider Andrews who qualified for the bronze medal match with her time fourth fastest to Shields’ fifth. Up against her was Poland’s Nikola Rozynska, who’d qualified 0.5 seconds faster. Andrews found a new lease of life though in the final to produce a time that was just 0.28 seconds behind the new world record that would be set later that day.