New Zealand's female track riders set fastest times in their return to international action on the first day of the opening UCI World Cup in Mexico today.
They took advantage of the slick track at Guadalajara to set New Zealand best times during qualifying for the 4000m team pursuit, where they were second fastest, and the team sprint where they were eighth.
The men's team sprint, sporting the rainbow jerseys of world champions, had to be content with fourth fastest in qualifying in a stacked field and will contest for the bronze medal tomorrow. The men's team pursuit were fifth fastest in qualifying, only two seconds behind top team Australia, and will take on Spain in the battle towards the bronze medal ride.
The women's team pursuit combination Rushlee Buchanan, Lauren Ellis, Jaime Nielsen and Georgia Williams clocked 4:26.696 for the 4000m qualifying to be second behind Olympic champions Great Britain who were timed at 4:20:066s. They started conservatively to be eighth fastest through the first 1000m and were still only the sixth fastest at 3000m. But they maintained that steady pace over the final kilometre in 1:03 to finish with a new best time of 4:26:697, some eight seconds better than their qualifying effort at the recent Oceania Championships. They recorded a significant negative split going through the midway mark in 2:15.
New Zealand will ride against third qualifiers Canada tomorrow, while Great Britain take on China, with the two winners then riding off later on the second day for the gold medal. The fifth to eight fastest teams also ride-off, and the fastest two times of those six teams will ride off for the bronze medal.
The women's team sprint combination of Katie Schofield and Stephanie Mckenzie had their first major international outing together with a promising effort on the slick track. They clocked 33.469s, their fastest effort on the quick surface. The pair was ninth fastest through the first lap with McKenzie zooming home with a 14.130s effort for the second lap, the fifth fastest and only 0.3s off the best time of world champion Kristina Vogel (GER).
Most eyes were on the world champions in the team sprint, Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster and Eddie Dawkins. The competition was fierce with the German and French combinations the same who finished second and third respectively behind the Kiwis at this year world championships. The BikeNZ trio, riding last with Germany, managed a highly respectable 43.037s, quicker than their time as top qualifiers at the world championships. But on this lightning track it was only good enough for fourth fastest and the Kiwis will race for the bronze tomorrow.
The men's 4000m team pursuit combination of Aaron Gate, Pieter Bulling, Westley Gough and Marc Ryan clocked 3:59.530 with only four seconds covering the top eight teams who qualify for tomorrow's elimination round. Fastest qualifier Australia (3:57:132) headed off Great Britain by half a second with Netherlands a further half second back in third with Switzerland fourth.
Australia take on Switzerland and Great Britain against Netherlands, with the winners going through to the gold medal ride. The next fastest two times from the two losers and the next four teams – New Zealand against Spain and Germany against Denmark – will contest the ride for the bronze.
The men were in impressive form for the first three quarters of their journey. They were fastest through the midway point in 2:01:315 and second fastest just under the three minute mark at 3000m. However they faded to be a tick over the one minute mark for the final kilometre which cost them a chance to challenge for the gold medal tomorrow.
The elimination and medal rounds for both Team Sprint and Team pursuit take place tomorrow along with Cameron Karwowski and Raquel Sheath in the first day of the omnium, the men's keirin and women's sprint.
Results, day 1, qualifying: Women 4000m team pursuit: Great Britain 4:20:066, 1; New Zealand (Rushlee Buchannan, Lauren Ellis, Jaime Nielsen, Georgia Williams) 4:26.697, 2; Canada 4:227.272, 3; China 4:27.272, 4; Italy 4:27.812, 5; Germany 4:29.891, 6; Australia 4:30.448, 7; Cuba 4:30.492, 8.
Men 4000m team pursuit: Australia 3:57:132, 1; Great Britain 3:57:661, 2; Netherlands 3:58:235, 3; Switzerland 3:58:269, 4; New Zealand (Aaron Gate, Pieter Bulling, Westley Gough, Marc Ryan) 3:59:530, 5; Germany 3:59:530, 6; Denmark 4:00:965, 7; Spain 4:01:445, 8.
Women Team Sprint: Germany 32.485, 1; Australia 32.936, 2; Netherlands 32.958, 3. Also: New Zealand (Stephanie Mckenzie, Katie Schofield) 33.469, 8.