The Vantage New Zealand track cycling team have bagged more medals and more world class performances on the opening night of the Tissot UCI World Cup in Brisbane.
They finished with two silver medals, a bronze and a fourth from their four team finals, and strengthened their rankings for February’s world championships with women and men team pursuits third and fourth respectively on World Cup standings, with the men and women team sprint sixth and seventh respectively.
The women’s team pursuit twice went under their old national record before being edged out by 0.3 seconds to world champions Australia in the 4000m final at the Anna Meares Velodrome.
The combination of Rushlee Buchanan, Holly Edmondston, Bryony Botha and Racquel Sheath were one second down with 1000m remaining in the final. They fought back with a blistering 1:02 final kilometre but ran out of real estate with the margin down to 0.3s to their trans-tasman rivals.
The women’s team pursuit squad under coach Ross Machjefski lowered their 4:16 national record ultimately to 4:10 with that stunning performance at Cambridge last week. They followed up with a 4:16 qualifying effort today and two rides of 4:13 in Brisbane to reinforce their standing as one of the premier teams in the world.
Not that they are getting carried away with their success.
“Like always we are a process-focussed team so we just wanted to go out and execute a good ride– focussing on our aero tuck position, our lines and our changes and set the ride up real good,” said Bryony Botha. “Any outcome from that work was just a bonus.
“We had two new members in the team and we switched around positions so we wanted to go out and try something new.
“We are pretty excited with the performances today. They were some awesome rides and some big PBs for some of the girls. But there’s still a lot of improvement we can work on and we want to go faster and faster.”
It was a similar position for the men’s team pursuit with Corbin Strong and Tom Sexton coming into the squad in Brisbane to join Campbell Stewart, Jordan Kerby and Regan Gough.
They were only one second outside the national record in qualifying second fastest in 3:51.153, one second behind hosts Australia. However the kiwis smashed their New Zealand record with a stunning 3:48.244 performance in the first round, the fastest ride of the competition, and only 0.2s outside the world record to earn a place in the gold medal ride against Australia.
The Kiwis were even faster through the 2000m point in the final but their effort took a toll, dropping off the pace in the final four laps.
Like the women, there is considerable depth in the men’s endurance programme as coach Craig Palmer has experimented with a number of different riders and combinations in the three world cup competitions as they draw breath and contemplate their lead up to the world championships.
The men’s team sprint blooded Auckland’s Sam Dakin with Eddie Dawkins spelled after a demanding workload.
They qualified fastest with a 43.221s effort, with Dakin moving to second wheel ahead of Webster in the first round where their 43.311s showing earned a bronze medal ride against Olympic champions Great Britain.
New Zealand rallied with a 43.406s time to beat off Great Britain for the bronze with Japan edging Poland for the gold in 42.912.
The women’s team sprint combination of Olivia Podmore and Natasha Hansen made a significant breakthrough under the 33-second barrier in Cambridge, but while they enjoyed three solid rides, qualifying and finishing fourth, they could not replicate the teamwork of last week.
The Vantage New Zealand riders now turn to individual events with Hansen and Podmore racing the individual sprint on Saturday, surprise Hong Kong keirin winner Callum Saunders gets another chance, the 2013 world champion Aaron Gate rides the omnium; while Racquel Sheath and Buchanan team up in the madison.
The competition finishes on Sunday.