The Australian Cycling Team’s rising stars stole the show on Friday night at the UCI Track World Cup with Podium Potential Academy riders James Brister, Matthew Richardson and Thomas Clarke storming to team sprint gold, while Jarrad Drizners, Godfrey Slattery, Conor Leahy, and Luke Plapp clinched team pursuit bronze.
Teenagers James Brister, 19, and Matthew Richardson, 19, bolted from the gates on their World Cup debut, teaming with Thomas Clarke, 23, to win gold in the men’s team sprint.
The Podium Potential Academy trio posted the fastest qualifying ride (44.343) in Friday's afternoon’s qualifying round before progressing to the final with a first round win (43.774) over Belarus.
In the final, Richardson got the team off to a hot start, with Clarke and Brister bringing it home in 43.815 seconds to record a resounding win over Japan (44.148) to claim the gold.
“I have been really excited for weeks to ride this event with these boys, we targeted this event and trained really hard,” said Clarke, who won silver with Jacob Schmid and Nathan Hart last weekend at the penultimate round of the World Cup in Cambridge.
“It was only the second time we have ridden together, and with a new order, and it paid off with this great result,” said Richardson.
“First World Cup, first medal, first gold medal, it is pretty exciting, I wasn’t expecting this at all, can't thank my teammates, coach and staff enough,” said Brister, who recognised the Academy for his result. “The support we are getting phenomenal now, I wouldn’t be here now without the support of Cycling Australia setting up the Academy.”
In the team pursuit, the teenage quartet of Jarrad Drizners, 19, Godfrey Slattery, 18 Conor Leahy, 19, and Luke Plapp, 18, won bronze in just their second World Cup event.
The team posted the eighth fastest time (4:01.562) in Thursday evening’s qualifying round to just make it through to Friday’s first round.
There, world record holder Sam Welsford, 23, subbed in for Slattery with the quartet scorching the Hong Kong Velodrome with a stunning ride of 3mins 53.889secs, the fastest time ever ridden by the teenage trio.
“It is crazy to ride a three-fifty three, particularly in these cool conditions,” said Welsford. “I only came in to ride the first round to give a little direction in the middle, to set the pace. But hats off to the boys, they were holding the pace as good as, if not better than me.”
In the bronze medal final, Drizners, Slattery, Leahy and Plapp (3:57.423) proved too good for France (3:58.738) to take their first podium at a World Cup level.
The women’s endurance quartet of Maeve Plouffe, 19, Alexandra Manly, 22, and World Cup debutants Alexandra Martin-Wallace and Sophie Edwards, both 18, finished fifth overall.
The quartet posted squad-best time of 4mins 25.554secs in Thursday’s qualifying, with the team overcoming a late minute change which waw Sophie Edwards come in for Sam De Riter just minutes before the race after De Riter fell ill.
In Friday’s first round against fastest qualifiers Italy, the Aussie quartet bettered their time by more than a second (4:24.250). However, the time was less than a second shy of France’s fourth-best time, therefore missing a place in the bronze medal final.
“Yesterday was a really good day, pretty stoked to post the fourth best time and a personal best,” said Martin-Wallace. “We have been working so hard on it at training, getting better and better, so it was nice to deliver here.
“Even though we didn’t make it into the finals, we went even faster so I am really happy.
“The experience has been awesome, I have been trying to learn as much as I can, and having so much fun, to be in this environment, it is great.”
In the women’s team sprint, Caitlin Ward and Holly Takos clocked 35.060seconds in the women’s event which placed them sixteenth overall.
The UCI Track World Cup in Hong Kong is the sixth and final for the 2018/19 season. Racing continues on Saturday and Sunday.