It was podium finishes all round for Southlanders on the first day of competition with U19 Makayla Smith, Emma Cumming and Nick Kergozou all securing golds, along with a silver for Elite sprinter Steph McKenzie.
In the junior women, Cumming (Southland) beat Taupo’s Jaymie King in the best decider, while Southland’s Kergozou bettered Taupo’s Lewis Eccles in two straight rides. Meanwhile, Smith took out the junior women's scratch race.
In the women, McKenzie and Ward were too strong for Waikato’s Tess Young and Otago’s Katie Schofield in the semifinals, both in two straight rides. Twenty-year-old Australian Caitlin Ward, a silver medallist at the junior world championships two years ago, prevailed in the third race decider in the women’s sprint final over Kiwi Commonwealth Games representative Steph McKenzie in a close battle.
Commonwealth Games champion Sam Webster had to dig deep to claim victory in the sprint final on the first night of the Avanti BikeNZ Classic in Cambridge on night one.
The UCI event is the first to offer qualifying points towards the Rio Olympics and has attracted riders from Australia, USA, Malaysia, Scotland, Canada and the Czech Republic.
Webster, who won the sprint and team sprint gold medal in Glasgow, had to overcome an impressive performance from 20-year-old Australian prospect Jacob Schmid in the three-race final.
Twenty-year-old Australian Caitlin Ward, a silver medallist at the junior world championships two years ago, prevailed in the third race decider in the women’s sprint final over Kiwi Commonwealth Games representative Steph McKenzie in a close battle.
The men’s omnium competition is delicately placed after three of the six disciplines today. The 2011 world champion Aaron Gate from Auckland is sandwiched between Australians Sam Welsford and Scott Law with only four points separating the trio.
Law won the opening scratch race, Gate was best in the 4000m individual pursuit and Welsford claimed an exciting elimination race, and with two second placings, he holds the narrow lead going into the final three events tomorrow – the 1000m time trial, flying lap and points race.
The women’s omnium was dominated by brilliant Australian Ashlee Ankudinoff who won all three disciplines – the scratch race where she dominated, the 3000m individual pursuit in 3:39.095 and the elimination. She leads from compatriot Rebecca Wiasak and Kiwi Lauren Ellis.
The real interest lay in the men’s sprint final where Schmid, who won two world junior titles at Invercargill in 2012, snuck away to win the first final, while Webster controlled things from the front to even the score. The decider was superb with Schmid leading out, only for Webster to edge him from behind in the final thrust for the line.
Webster, back in training only two weeks ago following a break after the Commonwealth Games, said he had to dig deep to win.
“I knew where my legs were at and I knew I had a hard road ahead. I had to implement some different race plans but managed to come away with the win,” Webster said.
“It means a lot to win a hard race when I am not at my peak. After the Commonwealth Games I now have a deeper belief that I can win big bike races, so come away to win in a tough battle was really pleasing.
“I put everything out on the track to get that win. It was cool to come back as Commonwealth champion. It was glad I could put my best foot forward today.”
Nineteen year old Patrick Constable from Australia edged Simon van Velthooven in two photo finishes for third place.
Earlier Webster held off compatriot van Velthooven 2-0 in two closely fought semifinals that required the photo-finish to decide, while Schmid prevailed over Constable in two straight rides.
In the women, McKenzie and Ward were too strong for Waikato’s Tess Young and Otago’s Katie Schofield in the semifinals, both in two straight rides.
In tomorrow’s racing the sprinters compete in the keirin with the omnium riders to complete their competition, along with a points and scratch race for endurance riders in the evening.
Day 1 results:
Elite women qualifying: Steph McKenzie (NZL) 11.475, 1; Caitlin Ward (AUS) 11.511, 2; Katie Schofield (Otago) 11.861, 3. Semifinals: McKenzie bt Tess Young (WBOP) 2-0, Ward bt Schofield 2-0. 3rd-4th: Schofield bt Young 2-0. Final: Ward bt McKenzie 2-1.
Elite men qualifying: Jacob Schmid (AUS) 10.035, 1 (Lap record); Eddie Dawkins (NZL) 10.048, 2; Shane Perkins (AUS) 10.136, 3. Quarterfinals: Schmid bt Zac Williams (NZL) 2-0, Sam Webster (NZL0 bt Dawkins 2-0, Simon van Velthooven bt Perkins (AUS) 2-0, Patrick Constable (AUS) bt Matt Archibald (NZL) 2-1. Semifinals: Schmid bt Constable 2-0, Webster bt van Velthooven 2-0. 5th to 8th: Perkins 1, Williams 2, Dawkins 3. 3rd-4th: Constable bt van Velthooven 2-0. Final: Webster bt Schmid 2-1.
Elite women, Scratch race: Ashlee Ankudinoff (AUS) 1, Rebecca Wiasak (AUS) 2, Kirstie James (Southland) 3. Individual pursuit: Ankudinoff 3:39.095, 1; Wiasak 3:41.196, 2; Jaime Nielsen (NZL) 3:43.974, 3. Elimination: Ankudinoff 1, Wiasak 2, Lauren Ellis (NZL) 3.
Points after 3 rounds: Ankudinoff 120 points, Wiasak 114, Ellis 100.
Elite men, scratch: Scott Law (AUS) 1, Sam Welsford (AUS) 2, Aaron Gate (NZL) 3. Individual pursuit: Gate 4:27.581, 1; Welsford 4:28.815, 2; Law 4:29.917, 3. Elimination: Welsford 1, Gate 2, Law 3.
Points after 3 rounds: Welsford 116, Gate 14, Law 112.
Elite Women scratch race 10km: Ankudinoff 1, Lauren Ellis (NZL) 2, Raquel Sheath (Waikato) 3.
Elite men points race, 40km: Alex Porter (AUS) 37, Westley Gough (NZL) 33, Liam Aitcheson (NZL) 11.
Sprint, men qualifying: Nick Kergozou (Southland) 10.644, 1; Lewis Eccles (Taupo) 11.155, 2; Liam Brown (Manawatu) 11.386, 3. Semifinal: Kergozou bt Hamish Beadle (Southland) 2-0, Eccles bt Brown 2-0. 3rd-4th: Brown bt Beadle 2-1. Final: Kergozou bt Eccles 2-0.
Sprint, women qualifying: Emma Cumming 12.114, 1; Jaymie King (NZL) 12.662, 2; Madeleine Park (Auckland) 13.483, 3. Semifinals: Cumming bt Emma Porritt (WBOP) 2-0, King bt Park 2-0. 3rd-4th: Park bt Porritt 2-0. Final: Cumming bt King 2-1. Women scratch race: Makayla Smith (NZL) 1, Ruby Perry (WCNI) 2, Madeleine Park (Auckland) 3.
Photos courtesy Dianne Manson - View her full gallery here