The star pairing of Aaron Gate and Campbell Stewart dug deep to win the silver medal in the madison on the final day of the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Berlin today, while Ellesse Andrews took fifth in the women's keirin.
Gate launched Campbell for the final sprint in the gruelling 200-lap 50km two-person race as the Vantage elite team edged out Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands by the narrowest of margins for the silver medal.
It left the Vantage New Zealand team with three medals from the world championships, importantly with two of them coming in Olympic events as riders eye Tokyo in five months, with silvers in the madison and men’s team pursuit along with the gold medal for Corbin Strong in the Points race.
The women’s team pursuit, who chose not to peak for the championships as they had already secured Olympic qualification, impressed to be third fastest in qualifying.
The major mission for the Vantage New Zealand team was to secure Olympic qualification which they achieved in 11 of the 12 Olympic events, with only the new women’s team sprint combination missing out.
The focus went on the men’s madison today, with the event to return to the Olympic programme in Tokyo.
The Danish team dominated the race, the only team to put a lap on the rest as they went on to win the gold medal with 62 points, winning five of the first 10 sprints, decided every 10 laps.
While it far from a cleanly judged race, the Kiwi pairing called on all their reserves, scoring points on 11 of the 20 sprints with Stewart finishing second in the final dash which secured the silver medal by just one point from Germany with a further three points back to the Dutch combination.
“The race definitely hurt the entire body,” said Gate. “It was one of the messiest madisons we have ridden technically which was a reflection of how hard the race was. We had to really fight for that medal and Campbell had to come back for the last sprint. It literally came down to that sprint.
“The Danes were on another level. We couldn’t do anything to fight against them but it was still good to be on the World Champs podium. It is our first world championships riding together and it bodes well for chasing a medal in the same event in Tokyo.
“With 120 laps to go I saw we were still in the hunt in second so from there it was about keeping on doing what was successful and defusing other teams trying to get a lap.
“Physically when we can still get a silver medal but not ride a clean technical race then it gives us confidence for the future. Once we get dialled in more we can be pushing for a medal.”
Earlier the women impressed with their performances in the keirin. Ellesse Andrews, the former junior pursuit world champion, underlined her successful transition into sprinting as she progressed to the gold medal final, where she finished fifth in a stacked field. She progressed steadily through the rounds, showing awareness and composure well beyond her years, and marking her as a rider for the future. The keirin title went to Emma Hinze (GER) who claimed her third gold medal of the championships after earlier claiming the individual sprint and team sprint titles.
After missing out on qualifying from her heat, Natasha Hansen impressed in making the semifinal of the keirin, having to fight through the repechage. However, she did not advance from her semi final, racing off for seventh to twelfth place in the minor final, where three of the six riders came to grief in a rather untidy race.
Teammate Olivia Podmore did not advance out of the repechage.
The Vantage New Zealand team equalled their three-medal haul from last year and it has been four years since it was bettered. They return for a short break before beginning their Tokyo Olympic preparations.