The elder statesman of the New Zealand men’s track cycling programme, Marc Ryan, got to enjoy his moment in the sun when he took out the individual pursuit title on the second night of finals at the UCI Oceania Track Cycling Championships in Invercargill.
The Oceanias are one of five continental championships that now carry qualifying points for next year’s world championships and also ranking points for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Ryan, 31, has become the leader and father-figure in the team pursuit group that includes Aaron Gate 22, Pieter Bulling 20 and 19 year olds Dylan Kennett and Hayden McCormick.
The Timaru rider showed his experience and class to take out the 4000m individual pursuit with a personal best time of 4:22.612 to beat off the challenge from Australian teenager Miles Scotson.
Ten-time world champion Anna Meares (AUS) again showed her remarkable class to win the women’s keirin final, to add to the 500m time trial victory on the first night.
Meares, a two-time Keirin world champion, was pushed by her teammates Taylor Jennings and Stephanie Morton who ensured an Australian trifecta.
The New Zealand team had their share of glory when Mid-Canterbury rider Lauren Ellis clawed back an early deficit to win the women’s 3000m individual pursuit title from fellow Olympian Jaime Nielsen with fellow Kiwi Georgia Williams finishing third.
Ryan, unhappy with his qualifying performance, put the heat on with a bit start to the final of the individual pursuit against his inexperienced Australian opponent, quickly opening a one second advantage before going on to win comfortably.
It was his first major individual pursuit for several years but he was delighted with the victory and his role in the burgeoning young endurance squad.
“Tonight I wanted to do what I’ve been doing in training, hit out hard and hope to hang on,” Ryan said. “It is like the team pursuit, in that you have to take the race from the first lap or you are always going to be chasing.
“I’ve probably been through three teams now. The new young guys are chirpy and putting a new spark in me. Same with the last team and the same with this, so we will have to see how long it is before they kick me out of the team.
“My role has changed in the team, to set the ride up later on where I used to set the race up from the start.
The young guys, well I am unsure if they give me any respect. They certainly give me a lot of cheek which is fun.”
Meares was made to work hard to gain her second victory, pushing up from mid-pack to the lead with more than two laps remaining. She just held off a Morton surge with a lap to go and held on from the fast-finishing Jennings.
“It was a hard fought race that one. I train with these girls every day so I knew it would be tough,” Meares said.
“I knew when I saw Stephanie (Morton) move that I had to position myself better and I had to commit to a long run. It was not ideal but I could draw on at 500 background tonight. And I had that blonde rabbit pushing me on.
“I am really pleased with the week so far. I have the sprint on Friday where I want to have a good qualifying and use the opportunity to sharpen up some skills and decision-making, and gain some better spatial awareness when I am racing which is what was lacking in Manchester (World Cup).”
Nielsen has set the standard as the top qualifier in the individual pursuit qualifying in the morning, but Ellis pushed up the gearing and clawed her way back to finally grab the win in the final lap. She clocked 3:36.843 with Nielsen 0.2s behind, while Williams beat off Southland’s Laura Fairweather for the bronze.
“I am really happy with how I rode. It’s the fastest I have gone for a few years. I went up to a bigger gear in the final and it paid off. I could hear the commentator the whole time and I knew it was close.”
Ellis said that the enforced break from international racing by the women’s squad will prove a long term benefit.
“It’s meant we have had a really good period of consistent training without having to taper for races. Now we can just focus on the track and to get faster through to the Commonwealth Games.”
The championships continue until Friday.
Day 2 Results:
Women 3000m individual pursuit: Gold medal ride: Lauren Ellis (NZL) 3:36.843, 1; Jaime Nielsen (NZL) 3:37.033, 2; Bronze medal ride: Georgia Williams (NZL) 3:40.776, 2; Laura Fairweather (Southland) 3:46.450, 4.
Men 4000m individual pursuit: Gold medal ride: Mark Ryan (NZL) 4:22.612, 1; Miles Scotson (AUS) 4:25.827, 2; Bronze medal ride: Tirian McManus (AUS) 4:26.230, 3; Patrick Bevin (Waikato) 4:30.184, 4.
Women Keirin final: Anna Meares (AUS) 1, Taylah Jennings (AUS) 2, Stephanie Morton (AUS) 3.
Men 1000m Time Trial: Nick Kergozou (NZL) 1:05.150, 1; Quinn Karwowski (NZL) 1:05.199, 2; Michael Culling (NZL) 1:05.850, 3.
Women 2000m individual pursuit, Gold Medal Ride: Holly White (NZL) 2:30.885, 1; Bryony Botha (Auckland) 2:31.020, 2. Bronze medal ride: Maxyna Cottam (NZL) 2:33.331, 3; Laura Heywood (NZL) 2:35.042, 4.
Men Points Race 20km: Alex Rendell (AUS) 36 points, 1; Sam Dobbs (NZL) 32, 2; Matthew Jackson (AUS) 24, 3.
Men, Omnium, scratch race: Cameron Ford (NZL0 1, Matthew Jackson (AUS) 2, Alexander Porter (AUS) 3.
Omnium, 1000m time trial: Matthew Holmes (AUS) 1:05.861, 1; Alexander Porter (AUS) 1:06.394, 2; Matthew Jackson (AUS) 1:06.516, 3.
Omnium final points: Jackson 13 points, 1; Porter 15, 2; Holmes 19, 3.