The New Zealand men’s team sprint will ride for the rainbow jersey in the final on the opening night of the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in London.
The trio of Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster and Eddie Dawkins qualified fastest in the morning heats and will ride off against the Netherlands in the final.
New Zealand clocked 43.096s to finish 0.2s faster than the Netherlands, who surprised the traditional powerhouses of France and Germany who will meet to decide the bronze medal.
Yesterday Dawkins said last year’s relegation after winning the final was not going to be a factor, but the team was simply focussed on executing a strong performance.
Netherlands set the pace in the fourth of seven heats, building well to clock 43.266s. The hosts Great Britain looked to eclipse that as they led through two laps but faded to sixth, while defending world champions France and Germany also fell short.
Riding last with France, New Zealand produced a slick effort, second fastest after the opening lap, second by less than 1/1000ths of a second after two laps before Dawkins powered home to put the Kiwis into the final.
They won the world title in 2014 and were second last year when they were relegated for an illegal changeover after posting the fastest time.
Meanwhile New Zealand will take on perennial rivals Australia in the first round of the men’s team pursuit tomorrow.
The quartet of Dylan Kennett, Piet Bulling, Nick Kergozou and Aaron Gate were third fastest in qualifying in 3:57.050.
Great Britain, led by Bradley Wiggins, were fastest in 3:55.664 ahead of Australia in 3:55.867, New Zealand and Denmark.
The hosts take on Denmark in one match tomorrow, with the Kiwis, who won the world title in Paris last year, against Australia, with the winners to earn a place in the final.
Earlier New Zealand were 10th fastest in the women’s team pursuit with Natasha Hansen and teenage debutante Olivia Podmore clocking 33.932, to equal the best time set at sea level by a Lowo combination.
China take on Russia for the gold medal while Germany meet Australia for bronze.
The men’s sprint final is approximately 9.20am this morning, live on Sky Sports.