The Vantage New Zealand team bagged two more victories and a silver medal for sprinter Natasha Hansen on the final day of the UCI Track Cycling World Cup in Chile. The men’s team pursuit, with an average age of just 19 years, not only won the 4000m final in dominant fashion but produced two personal bests including a stunning 3:54.618 gold medal effort on the slick Peñalolen Velodrome on Santiago. The female pairing of Racquel Sheath and Michaela Drummond controlled the women’s madison for the gold medal, to follow on their third placing in Canada last week.
There has been plenty of things new in the Vantage men’s endurance squad with Matt Shallcrass stepping into the head coach role, and none of the team that won the silver medal at this year’s world championship in the current competition squad. The men’s team also brought in 18 year old Harry Waine, a member of the Barfoot & Thompson Auckland performance Hub, for today’s two rides which allowed Tom Sexton to focus on the demanding four-event omnium competition.
The team recorded their third straight competition PB with a 3:55.776 effort in the first round which was more than three seconds faster than Japan, who qualified second fastest for the gold medal ride against the Kiwis.
Coach Shallcrass changed things up to put Waine, in his first year out of Takapuna Grammar, into the starting role and using his speed over opening 1000m. He took them through in 1:03 before dropping out at the 1500m mark, allowing the trio of Nick Kergozou, Jared Gray and Campbell Stewart to complete the next three kilometres in splits of 56, 56 and 57 seconds.
Their 3:54.618 was another best for the team and only a second off the national record set in the silver medal winning team at the world championships in Hong Kong. And they could have gone faster, holding off the back of the Japan team on the final lap to set a time, rather than catching them which would have ended the race.
“It was awesome particularly with Harry coming in and stepping up for the semi and the final and contribute to the two fastest times since worlds last year,” said Kergozou. “We are pushing in the right direction for the Comm Games which is pretty exciting.”
Kergozou said the planning had been on-point with their good technique allowing the maximum benefit from the slick track. “We came in with a clear idea and executed both rides pretty much exactly as we wanted. This track was good for us as a team. If you stuck to the plan then it was a track that was fast and rewarding.”
“We are such a young team and it was a confidence-boost for everyone including the boys back home. Having them coming through the programme is what we need and has us in such a good space.”
The long trek home from South America and a couple of day’s rest will be all the Christmas break for the squads as they set for a big three months at the start of 2018. “We will get a wee break with the travel but we are back on the road for the road nationals in Napier in the New Year and then in the building up to the World Champs and Commonwealth Games.”
Sheath and Drummond combined perfectly to dominate the women’s 20km madison, the two-rider event with one always in play, swapping out with a unique hand-sling motion. The Kiwi pair won points in all eight sprints, awarded every 10 laps. They won two of the first three sprints to open a lead at the top of the table and then covered the field to ensure no-one managed a break, with 20 points available if a team put a lap on the field.
The pairing of Hansen and Emma Cumming finished fifth in the women’s team sprint with an improving 33.981 effort, just missing out on the evening ride for the bronze medal. However it Hansen who doubled up to impress in the women’s keirin, winning her semifinal ride impressively before the long wait until the final race on the programme for the final. She was baulked in her first push forward and was forced to go three-wide on the final bend from last place to claim second, just a wheel from winner Madalyn Godby (USA) who led throughout.
She is now ranked sixth in the keirin and 10th in sprint on the World Cup standings after competing in just two of the four meets.
Sexton finished 12th overall in the men’s omnium, placing 13th in the scratch race, 12th in the Tempo, sixth in the Elimination and 10th in the Points.
Although many of the European powers and Australian bypassed the Americas dual World Cups in the main, it still proved an excellent return for New Zealand who won the leading team award at both Canada and Chile.
Day 3 results:
Men 4000m team pursuit, round 1 overall: New Zealand (Nick Kergozou, Harry Waine, Campbell Stewart, Jared Gray) 3:55.776, 1; Japan 3:59.071, 2; Korea 4:00.773, 3; USA 4:03.634, 4. Gold Medal: New Zealand 3:54.618, 1; Japan 4:02.740, 2. Bronze medal: USA 3, Korea OVL, 4.
Women’s Madison 20km: New Zealand (Racquel Sheath, Michaela Drummond) 22 points, 1; Denmark 16, 2; Italy 13, 3.
Men’s Omnium overall: Daniel Holloway (USA) 146 points, 1; Eija Hashimoto (JPN) 143, 2; Roman Gladysh (UKR) 128, 3. Also: Tom Sexton (NZL) 70, 12.
Women’s keirin, final: Madalyn Godby (USA) 1, Natasha Hansen (NZL0 2, Liubov Basova (UKR) 3.