Gold to Nathan Hart and Annette Edmondson headlined the Australia Cycling Team’s campaign at the penultimate round of the UCI Tissot Track World Cup season in New Zealand at the weekend.
A stalwart as first-wheel in Australia's team sprint outfit for the best part of the decade, Nathan Hartcelebrated alone atop the podium with a memorable sprint victory.
Qualifying second fastest, Hart moved through the rounds with wins over Poland’s Maciej Bielecki, Japan’s Tomohiro Fukaya and France’s Sebastien Vigier.
In the final, Hart was too good for Poland’s Mateusz Rudyk, taking his first Tissot Track World Cup individual gold in straight heats.
“It feels great to have raced to my first World Cup gold medal, it has been a while since my last win, so it's that little bit sweeter,” said Canberra’s Hart, an Olympic and Commonwealth Games representative in the team format. “My Mum and Dad made the trip over to Cambridge and were watching from the stands, so it was special for them to be there to watch, after all the support they have provided over the many years.
“To also win the Silver in the Team Sprint with Jacob and Tom, it has been a successful World Cup round.”
On day one, Hart teamed with Jacob Schmid and Thomas Clarke to win silver in the team sprint, Australia’s first medal of the round.
The trio qualified third fastest (43.853) before defeating Japan in the first round in a time of 43.263secs which sent them into the gold medal final against three-time world champion New Zealand. There, the home team was too strong (43.121) for the Aussie trio (43.734).
“This is really special as it is my first World Cup medal, and to make it even better being able to share it with Nathan and Jacob made it really a night I won't forget for a while,” said Podium Potential Academy member Clarke who was a late replacement for Pat Constable who was unable to race due to injuries sustained at the Track Down Under in Adelaide on January 11.
“I felt for Pat missing out due to injury. It is not how you want to be selected for any team. I knew that stepping in for Pat was always going to be a difficult job as they have been smashing training back home and as a team have created some great chemistry in executing their team sprints.”
2015 world champion and 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Annette Edmondson returned to the top step of the omnium podium with a controlled victory in the women’s event.
Edmondson opened her account in the four-race omnium with a win in the scratch race, before taking fourth in the tempo. Victory in the elimination race provided an eight-point lead heading into the final event, the points race.
A controlled race from Edmondson saw her maintain her advantage over Canada’s Allison Beveridge (123pts) and Japan’s Yumi Kajihara (113pts) to take the win on 131 points.
“[I’m] Delighted to get the win here, we came here to get some experience because this would only be my third omnium in the new format,” said Edmondson, who took her world title and Olympic medal in the now-defunct six-race format. “Happy to tick some boxes, test out some new plans.
“The race might have been missing some of the bigger names in omnium, but the great opportunity of racing, to practice race strategies was not lost. Also, to learn to ride the final points race in the lead, that experience is hard to get at that level, so it was great to have this opportunity.
“It was a nice battle at the end there, but I did feel in control and happy to take the win.”
Kaarle McCulloch claimed her first individual sprint medal at a World Cup level when she claimed bronze in the women’s event.
On the eve of her thirty-first birthday, McCulloch surged to a personal best time of 10.677secs in sprint qualifying, second fastest and just three-hundredths behind Hong Kong’s Wai Sze Lee.
McCulloch defeated Ukraine’s Liubov Basova and the USA’s Madalyn Godby to move to the semi-finals where her run was ended by Olena Starikova (UKR).
In the bronze medal final, McCulloch came back from 0-1 down against hometown hero Natasha Hansen to win the bronze.
“Very very happy, to win my first ever individual sprint medal at a World Cup,” said McCulloch, who celebrated her birthday with fifth in the keirin. “I was thrilled when I got into the semis, a little disappointed how I rode it, but happy with how I bounced back in the bronze ride off to beat Natasha on her home turf.”
A host of Australian Cycling Team Podium Potential Academy riders got their first taste of international cycling when they made their World Cup debut.
The all-teenage quartet of Jarrad Drizners, Godfrey Slattery, Conor Leahy and Luke Plapp qualified seventh fastest (4:02.293) in the team pursuit, before defeating Russia with a time of 3mins 56.379secs in the first round. However, the quartet just missed the medal rounds by three-tenths of a second and finished fifth overall.
In other events, Drizners took a gallant fourth in the scratch race, Slattery was twelfth in the omnium, while Plapp and Drizners finished tenth in the Madison.
The Academy riders now form the majority of the Australian sixteen-rider team that will line up in the final World Cup round in Hong Kong this weekend.