Nicknamed Rhino, Manawatu’s Simon Van Velthooven produced a beast of a performance to win the bronze medal in the gruelling 1000m time trial at the UCI Track Championships in Melbourne tonight.
New Zealand’s first ever medal at a world championships went to the legendary Harry Kent in the same event in 1970, with van Velthooven adding just the second ever kiwi medal in this event 42 years later.
For a few minutes he held the fastest time ever at sea level of 1:00.534, which was a massive personal best of 0.7s, until France’s Michael D’Almeida edged him by 25/100ths of a second to claim the lead. Multi world champion Stefan Nimke (Germany) grabbed gold with a 1:00.082 ride in the final ride.
Van Velthooven set the seal on otherwise unspectacular day for the NewZealanders, with the 3000m women’s team pursuit ending a string of three straight bronze medals at the world championships when they just missed catching Canada in the ride off for third and fourth.
Earlier Natasha Hansen (Invercargill) sprinted to a personal best of 11.166 seconds in qualifying 13th in the women’s sprint where Australian Anna Meares regained her world record with a 10.782s ride.
Timaru’s Shane Archbold, a silver medallist in the omnium in Copenhagen last year, is in sixth place after the first day of the two-day competition. After a strong start to place second in the flying lap he was 16th in the 30km points race and recovered to finish sixth in the elimination race.
Van Velthooven was confident he was in the form of his life for the demanding test that is the 1000m time trial. Off 21st in a 27-strong field, the big man built on a cautious first lap to be fastest over the second lap and ultimately second fastest over the closing two laps in a superb display.
“The kilo for me is the most legendary event so to get a medal in this for New Zealand is sweet,” said van Velthooven.
“I wanted to win. I knew I had it in me. I was hoping for a 1.00.7 and I looked up to see 1:00.5 and I thought this is going to be hard to beat.
“The kilo is a bit of fun for me because it is not an Olympic event so I got out on the track and rip it and see what happens. The keirin is similar to the kilo so I am looking for a big one.
“All my training this year has been for the team sprint and what I have done today is a direct result of that work. To get a medal shows how hard we have all worked and how hard I have worked.”
The women’s team pursuit clocked their second fastest time ever of 3:20.598 which proved only the fourth fastest time after an astonishing qualifying session. Hosts Australia stunned many with a 3:17.053 effort to smash the world record by more than a second but only until Great Britain went faster again to regain their world mark with a 3:16.850.
While Australia made the early pace in the gold medal race, the British trio were outstanding in dominating the back half of the 3000m final to break their own world record with a superb 3:15.
Canada stated strongly in a closely fought bronze medal match, working their way to a half second lead before the New Zealanders edged in front with five laps remaining. Canada regained control with the kiwis running out of real estate to finish 0.3secs behind in 3:19.847, a fraction behind their previous best set at Invercargill in November.
“While we didn’t get a podium, there were some improvements there from five weeks ago at the London World Cup and we are right back up into the medal contenders again,” said BikeNZ national women’s coach Dayle Cheatley.
“We put some strategies in place after London and we put those together this week and we have come out with some positive results. It is not the result we wanted. We all want to be standing on the podium but we’ve got a lot of positives from this week.
“The Great Britain team have stepped up. You have to remember that they have a massive talent pool from which to select from and they have really got their act together on the track today.
“A podium finish is definitely our target for London. We were just 0.2 off the bronze medal here. You can agree there are four strong teams in the world and we are one of them.”
Hansen has finished provisionally 13th overall in the UCI rankings with every major meet resulting in a new best time for the 22-year-old who mixes life as an elite athlete with a career as an air traffic controller.
She was edged out by Cuban Lisandra Guerra Rodriguez by half a wheel in the round of 16 but is nonetheless pleased with her season.
“I really only got the opportunity in the last six months and I have to be really pleased with that. My first big meet I went 11.6 seconds which was pretty good. So within six months I’ve taken half a second off that and now producing world class times,” Hansen said.
“It’s not over yet. I want to put in a good performance in the keirin and hopefully then I’ve done enough to get selected for London.”
Archbold began the omnium with a personal best 13.086 in the flying lap for second place. He was forced to chase down an early break in the 30km points race and from there struggled, eventually finishing in 13th place.
He rode strongly in the elimination race and for the most part was well placed until he was blocked behind the leader and eliminated with six riders remaining.
Tomorrow features the men’s sprints with Sam Webster, Eddie Dawkins, Matt Archibald and Ethan Mitchell, the final day of the men’s omnium, first day of the women’s omnium with Jo Kiesanowski and Gemma Dudley in the scratch race.
Women’s sprint qualifying: Anna Meares (AUS) 10.782 - World Record, 1; Shuang Guo (CHN) 11.004, 2; Miriam Welte (GER) 11.033, 3. Also: Natasha Hansen (NZL) 11.166, 13.
Round of 16: Hansen lost to Lisandra Guerra Rodriguez (CUB)
Women’s 3000m team pursuit qualifying: Great Britain 3:16.850, 1 (World Record); Australia 3:17.053, 2; Canada 3:19.494, 3; New Zealand (L Ellis, J Nielsen, A Shanks) 3:20.598, 4.
Gold medal ride: Great Britain 3:15.720, 1 (world record); Australia 3:16.943, 2. Bronze medal ride: Canada 3:19.529, 3; New Zealand 3:19.847, 4.
Men’s omnium, day 1, flying lap: Ed Clancy (GBR) 12.881, 1; Shane Archbold (NZL) 13.086, 2; Glenn O’Shea (AUS) 13.137, 3.
30km points race: Elia Viviani (ITA) 43 points, 1; Eloy Teruel Rovira (ESP) 34, 2; Zach Bell (CAN) 29, 3. Also: Archbold minus 18, 16.
Elimination race: B Coquard (FRA) 1, O’Shea 2, RRatajczyk (POL) 3. Also: Archbold 6.
Points after three rounds: O’Shea 10, 1; Bell 16, 2; Clancy 18, 3. Also: Archbold 24, 6.
Men’s 1000m time trial: Stefan Nimke (GER) 1:00.082, 1; Michael D’Almeida (FRA) 1:00.509, 2; Simon van Velthooven (NZL) 1:00.543, 3. Also: Alex Frame (NZL) 1:04.794, 22. Also: Alex Frame (NZL) 1:04.794,
Women’s Points race: Anastasia Chulkova (RUS) 1, Jasmin Glaesser (CAN) 2, Caroline Ryan (IRL) 3. Also: Rushlee Buchanan (NZL) 14.
Photos courtesy of CJ Farquarson/BikeNZ