New Zealand won a further two medals in an outstanding second day of team pursuiting at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Hong Kong.
The quartet of Nick Kergozou, Dylan Kennett, Piet Bulling and Regan Gough won the silver medal in the final of the men’s 4000m team pursuit.
Meanwhile the women’s team pursuit, who only qualified sixth fastest, produced two outstanding rides to claim the bronze medal.
The men, under coach Dayle Cheatley, had set themselves for the final against perennial rivals Australia in what proved an epic battle.
The Australians eked out a half-second lead at the 1000m mark, extending to a full second at halfway. The Kiwis dug deep with a 56-second third quarter which saw them edge into the lead although the Australians were able to respond to reclaim the advantage to win in 3:51.503 with the New Zealand team the silver in 3:53.979.
It was the second time in two days that New Zealand had gone under the previous national record of 3:54.088 set in winning the world title in Paris in 2015.
“The ride was fantastic. We went out there absolutely fighting. We all laid it out there and did what we needed to do. To come away with the silver medal was good,” said Piet Bulling.
“We have come in with a re-think and re-structure after Rio. We’ve come in with a different plan that we’ve never done before. We’ve nailed every session, we’ve all bought in to the plan, everyone has been happy and positive. The outcome was what we got tonight which is great.”
Fellow Southlander Nick Kergozou, who rod at first wheel, was equally pleased.
“In all three rides we have gone out and executed to the plan as a team. Unfortunately we have missed out on the gold but to come here and get silver, get a New Zealand record in the process and do three fantastic rides puts us in a really good place for the future,” said Kergozou.
The women under the direction of coach Brendon Cameron had a bigger mountain to climb after managing only the sixth fastest in qualifying on the first day.
The quartet of Michaela Drummond, Racquel Sheath, Rushlee Buchanan and Jaime Nielsen produced an outstanding first-up ride in 4:20.171, on the back-up of a well-structured and even-paced race. The opening 1:08 for the first 1000m was followed by splits of 1:03, 1:04 and 1:03.
They had to wait patiently as the rest of the top-eight qualifiers competed, but it proved to be the fourth fastest to earn a ride-off for bronze against Italy who clocked 4:19.95 in their losing semifinal against USA.
New Zealand, who brought in the fresh legs of newcomer Kirstie James for the second ride, again worked to a similar schedule, finding themselves 1.3s behind at 3000m. While the Kiwis dug deep to lift their pace, the pressure took toll on the Italians as the New Zealanders not only edged ahead but ended up with an emphatic win in 4:21.778.
It was New Zealand’s first world championship medal since the move to four-person teams over 4000m, and their first since the bronze medal at Apeldoorn in 2011 when it was three-person teams over 3000m.
Nielsen, who was in the trio that won bronze in 2009 and 2011, was thrilled with their efforts.
“We just left everything out there. We knew we had to give it in the last part of the ride and we knew there could be gaps forming and we had to make sure we were in it to take the lead back,” Nielsen said.
“There were things that didn’t go well yesterday we just came back re-focussed and I am stoked.
“It was a bit emotional. We are climbing back up. We have two new riders for these worlds so it is encouraging to see the depth of the programme and we have the juniors working away as well. This is a boost and the icing on the cake that gives you the fuel to keep going.”
USA edged out Australia in an epic final by just 04.s to claim the gold.
Earlier the sprinters could not match their day one heroics in individual action.
Sam Webster and Eddie Dawkins both won their opening heats on the keirin but both missed out on the final finishing fourth in their respective semifinals, going on to be 11th and 12th respectively, while Zac Williams was edged out in the repechage.
Natasha Hansen qualified sixth fastest in the women’s sprint with an excellent 10.945s effort, which was only 0.2s off top qualifier Steph Morton from Australia.
Hansen took out the first round win over Helena Casas Roige from Spain but was pipped on the line by 9/100ths of a second to Liubov Basova (UKRS) in the second round for the right to make the best-of-three quarterfinals.
Tomorrow will see Ethan Mitchell, Webster and Dawkins in the individual sprint; Kennett and Kergozou in the individual pursuit; Manawatu teenager Drummond in the omnium and Gough in the points race.