Date: Monday, 27 February 2017

Five medal haul for New Zealand track cyclists


New Zealand cyclists bagged five medals on an outstanding day of action at the UCI World Cup in Los Angeles today.

The action was completed late on a long day with silver medals for the women’s team pursuit and a brilliant effort from teenager Campbell Stewart in the omnium. Earlier there were bronze medals headed by Natasha Hansen, who scored a first ever World Cup sprint medal for a Kiwi female in the keirin along with gongs to Sam Webster in the individual sprint and for another teenage prospect, Southland’s Tom Sexton in the scratch race.

The day started with usual team sprint starter Ethan Mitchell finishing joint top of qualifying in the individual sprint in a personal best 9.850s with Rio Olympic and world sprint medallist Denis Dmitriev of Russia. Teammate Webster was third qualifier in a slick 9.850, close to his previous best.

However Mitchell was edged by European champion Paval Kelemen (CZE) in a cruel second round draw.

Webster accounted for Hugo Barrette (Canada) and Andvil Vynokurov (UKR) to make the semifinals where he was pipped by Dmitirev by just 3/100th of a second over the final 10m of the deciding third ride in the semifinal. The Kiwi earned the bronze in a walkover after Frenchman Quentin Lafarge withdrew injured.

Hansen, in her first competition since Rio, was forced into the repechage of the keirin after being edged for second in the first round. She won her repechage impressively and then finished a strong second behind world champion Kristina Vogel (DEU) in the semifinal.

Hansen positioned herself well in her first World Cup final, sprinting home for third only 0.1s behind Vogel who claimed the title.

“It was a brilliant effort from Natasha in her first ride back. She has worked really hard and gone to a new level since Rio,” said coach Anthony Peden. “It was a really good start as we build to the world championships. We will now see how she backs up in the sprint tomorrow.”

Peden was pleased with the performance from Mitchell.

“We have been working for a year with Ethan on his one-lap riding and today was excellent. He was gutted with that first round draw but that is sprinting.

“Sam was close to his best and rode outstandingly well. He too has taken his sprinting to another level since Rio.”

Tomorrow is a big test for the sprinters with Webster to ride the keirin competition as well as joining Mitchell and Eddie Dawkins in the second round and hopefully the finals of the team sprint.

The women’s team pursuit produced an excellent ride to beat Rio Olympic bronze medallists Canada in the first round of elimination racing.

The quartet of Rushlee Buchanan, Michaela Drummond, Jaime Nielsen and Racquel Sheath clocked 4:22.717 to see off the challenge from Canada with comfort, ahead from the start and in control throughout.

They took on Rio silver medallists USA on their home track in the ride for gold, with the Americans opening a one second advantage at the 1000m mark. The New Zealand team edged closer with a 1:04 second 1000m but followed with two 1:05 efforts as the Americans picked up their pace to win in 4:19.990.

New Zealand finished in 4:24.619 but they were satisfied with the effort.

“It was our first team pursuit since Rio so it was good to get that under our belts,” said Racquel Sheath. “We were not too far away from where we want to be and we had two good rides today.”

The group also blooded junior world champion Michaela Drummond from the Manawatu in to the combination.

“She has fitted really well and I thought gave us a good lift. We are not getting carried away because Great Britain and Australia were not here but with six weeks of hard training to go before the world championships, I think we are in good space.”

Sexton and Stewart, both national junior representatives last year, were backing up after competing at the World Cup in Cali last week.

Sexton produced an impressive performance, positioning himself well in the 15km scratch race, to finish powerfully for the bronze medal behind Yauheni Karalok (BLR) and Thomas Denis (FRA).

Stewart, the junior world champion at the omnium, had his first World Cup start under the new four-event, one-day format with all bunch racing. He was ninth in the Scratch race, 10th in the Tempo and an improving fourth in the Elimination to be sixth overall going into the pivotal Points race.

The teenager from Manawatu showed his poise and class, and instead of chasing early sprints, he positioned himself in the break that put a lap on the field. He then produced a withering finish to win the final double-points sprint to finish in a tie for second, winning the silver medal on countback behind Poland’s Szymon Sajnok.

The final day of action sees Webster in the keirin, the second round and medal rounds of the men’s team sprint, Sexton and Campbell in the Madison, Hansen in the individual sprint and Nielsen in the individual pursuit

CAPTION: Natasha Hansen winning her repechage in the keirin at the UCI Track World Cup in Los Angeles.

Image courtesy Guy Swarbrick

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