The Australian Cycling Team claimed three gold, three silver and two bronze at the final 2018/19 UCI World Cup round held at the Hong Kong Velodrome highlighted by dual gold to Thomas Clarke, 23, in the sprint and team sprint with teenagers James Brister, 19, and Matthew Richardson, 19, plus omnium gold to Cameron Meyer.
Forty-eight hours after teaming winning gold in the team sprint, Podium Potential Academy members Thomas Clarke, 23, and James Brister, 19, faced off for gold in the individual sprint.
Fifth fastest qualifier Brister (9.925) and seventh fastest Clarke (9.979) made their way unscathed through the rounds, with teenage Brister accounting for three-time sprint world champion and Olympic bronze medallist Theo Bos (NED) in the quarterfinals in straight heats. Clarke took care of Nicholas Paul (TTO) also in two rides.
Brister and Clarke then set up the all Aussie final with two strong straight-heat semifinal victories over Chao Xu (CHN) and Quentin Caleyron (FRA) respectively.
In the final, Clarke proved too good on the day for his younger opponent in straight heats. The win made it five gold from six events in the men’s sprint across the World Cup season after Matthew Glaetzer won the first three rounds and Nathan Hart collected gold in round five.
“Honestly I don’t think it has sunk in, I still can’t believe it. I woke up this morning with no expectations apart form coming here qualifying the best I can and having a race,” said Clarke, who also won team sprint silver last week in New Zealand in round five of the World Cup.
“I took it one race at a time, had a few close calls to make it through and then couldn’t believe it when James and I both made the gold medal ride off.
“At that point, either way, however it finished I was just proud of our team and what we have achieved this week.”
In a heartbreaking end the men’s 30km Madison, Sam Welsford and Kelland O’Brien were edged into the silver medal position by New Zealand in the final sprint of the 120-lap race.
The Aussie pair set the pace early, claiming the race lead after the second sprint. However, France and New Zealand surged to take the lead over the Australians at the halfway mark.
With dual Madison world champion Cameron Meyer calling the shots from the sidelines, the Australians pounced inside the final forty laps to take a lap on the field, and with the twenty bonus points, they regained the race lead.
A litany of attacks ensued in an animated final thirty laps, with New Zealand stealing the win on the final sprint, leapfrogging the Australians onto the top step of the podium.
“It was pretty hard out there, we knew we had to be on our game,” said Welsford. “We knew we had to score early and take a late lap if we needed and we did that. But we just got caught behind a few riders and missed out on that final sprint.”
Alexandra Manly staged an epic comeback inside the final twenty laps of the points race to win bronze in women’s omnium.
It wasn’t an ideal start to the four-event omnium for Manly after finishing fifteenth in the scratch race. However second in the tempo and fifth in the elimination placed her in sight of the podium heading into her favourite event, the 80-lap points race.
Trailing third place by nineteen points, Manly took a solo lap inside the final twenty laps which launched her into third and onto the podium.
“I had a bad scratch race, so I knew I had to have a good points race and use my strengths,” said Manly. “With twenty laps to go I knew it was my last opportunity, so I went as deep as I could because I knew if I did I was guaranteed to win a medal. It was a major fight, but I got there.”
The result continues Manly’s return to competition after breaking her shoulder late in 2018.
“For me, it was important for my confidence as it has been two months of solid training, so it was nice to get used to the bunch again and it was pretty nice to come away with the medal.”
Teenage debutant Alexandra Martin-Wallace shone in the scratch race, coming over the top of a fast finishing bunch to win silver.
“I am really happy, certainly wasn’t expecting a medal going into the event,” said Martin-Wallace after her third event of her maiden World Cup. Martin-Wallace finished fifth in the team pursuit on day one and with Maeve Plouffe, was stoic in an intense Madison contest on day two. “I was so nervous, my goal was to just get as much experience as I could, got some wise words before the race from my coach Rohan Wight, and I am just over the moon with the result.”
Podium Potential Academy member Caitlin Ward continued her strong weekend form with seventh overall in the women’s keirin. In her first World Cup event in three years, Ward also collected a competition personal best 11.022seconds in the flying 200m and eighth in the women’s sprint.
The UCI Track World Cup in Hong Kong was the sixth and final for the 2018/19 season.
The 2019 UCI Track World Championships will be held in Poland from February 27.