NEW ZEALAND CYCLISTS ADD TWO MORE GOLD TO TALLY AT WORLD CUP

TISSOT UCI TRACK CYCLING WORLD CUP, CAMBRIDGE – DAY 2 NZ WRAP

New Zealand scored two more victories, both in exciting fashion by the Madison paring on Campbell Stewart and Aaron Gate, and the sprint star Eddie Dawkins, on the second night of finals at the Tissot UCI Track Cycling World Cup in Cambridge.

Stewart, a four-time junior world champion, and the 2013 omnium world champion Gate were thoroughly dominant, lapping the field twice on the way to victory in the two-rider event that has been added to the Olympic schedule at Tokyo.

Dawkins waited for the final event of the night to produce a gutsy display to edge out rivals to claim the keirin title, backing up his gold medal in the team sprint on the first night at the Avantidrome.

Gate and Stewart had the local crowd in raptures as the kiwi pair produced a statement performance to take the men’s Madison. The New Zealanders simply outclassed the field with a masterful display of both tactics and endurance, taking two laps on the field and winning points in 10 of the 12 sprints. With the race already wrapped up, Gate and Stewart then had the sell-out crowd on their feet by taking out the final sprint to finish with 76 points overall.

It capped a fabulous and exhausting few days for Stewart, who was part of the national record-breaking men’s team pursuit last night.

“Aaron really pushed it to get that first lap and then initiated the second as well, and I just kinda had to follow and keep up the pace. I think every time I swung up, I tried to get as much rest and then hit it, gain a bit more distance and then we just consolidated,” Stewart said.

Gate is relishing his return to the track after a few years on the road and is thrilled to perform so well in front of home fans.

“I had plenty of friends and family in the crowd, so had to put on a good show for them. Especially with the pressure of all the success of the rest of the team last night, I really had to live up to the high expectations that the crowd had, so it was great to be able to pull it off.”

If he was in any doubt about his decision to get back on the boards, it’s now gone.

“It’s definitely cemented it. I mean you’re only as good as your last race, so to come out here and have a good one, it’s definitely cemented my hunger to be back chasing more medals on the track,” Gate said.

The Dutch duo of Yoeri Havik and Roy Pieters were second with 30 points, while American pair Daniel Holloway and Adrian Hegyvary took the bronze medal with 26 points.   

A powerhouse display from Dawkins gave New Zealand its fifth gold medal of the week.

In the tightest final so far, Dawkins stormed home over the final 50 metres, coming from behind to win by 0.05s from Quentin Lafargue of France, with Yudai Nitta (Japan) another 0.02s further back in third.

Dawkins, who’d steadily built throughout the earlier rounds, got in a tight spot early, but was able to fight his way through the field.

“I went through the bell about 50 metres off the front guy and I was panicking a wee bit, but the nature of being on the front early means you burn a lot of candles and I managed to use the slipstream off Quentin Lafargue and shot past him, and it gave me the momentum to catch first place,” said Dawkins.

Like the rest of the New Zealand team, Dawkins is proud to have put on a show on his home track.

“It’s huge. The fans and the crowd give a lot of motivation to us Kiwis, and you can see it in performances, you can see stuff that’s maybe not expected, times that are super, super world class that shouldn’t be happening at this time of the year. It’s a testament to how much the crowd motivates us and how much we draw from that.”

Hong Kong’s Lee Wai Sze dominated the women’s sprint from the opening race, adding the Cambridge title to her earlier World Cup wins in France and Canada.

Lee beat Ukraine’s Olena Starikova in two-straight rides in the best-of-three final, continuing the form she’d shown from the morning session where she set a new All Comers record in her qualifying ride.

“I just tried my best. I not only represent Hong Kong but Asians so I really want to give my best and show the world how good we are,” Lee said.

Lee knows the pressure will ratchet up a notch at the final event on the calendar when she rides in front of a home crowd, but her first priority is performing in the Keirin tomorrow.

“I have not thought about my home World Cup in Hong Kong yet but first I hope to do well tomorrow.”

The bronze medal race was a tight trans-Tasman affair, with New Zealand’s Natasha Hansen taking the first race and Australia’s Kaarle McCulloch the second to set up a decider. The cat-and-mouse battle saw Hansen lead out from the bell lap, but she couldn’t hold on as McCulloch powered over the top of the kiwi to take the bronze.

Annette Edmondson won Australia’s second medal of the weekend with a complete display in the women’s Omnium.

Edmondson was the most consistent of the 21 riders in the field, winning two of the four events.

After controlling the 7.5km scratch race to take maximum points from the opening event, Edmondson produced a stunning ride in the elimination race – the third of four events. With a big effort over the closing stages leaving Edmondson and Japanese rider Yumi Kajihara as the last two, the Australian judged the final two laps to perfection and was able to swoop to claim her second win.

It gave Edmondson, the former world champion, an eight-point lead over Canada’s Allison Beveridge heading to the points race, allowing the pair some breathing space to cover any major moves over the 20km race. Beveridge threw everything at the Australian and, despite taking double points in the final sprint, ultimately fell short. Edmondson finished with 131 points, with Beveridge on 123 and Kajihara 113.

The result is validation for Edmondson’s decision to enter in the first place.

“I came here for experience. We weren’t going to send a women’s endurance team but I knew there was a spot and it is a close one so I put my hand up, send me so I can learn and get as much from it as I can.”

Like many riders, Edmondson has had to find the balance between riding the track and road, but is now fully focused on the velodrome after the disappointment of missing a medal at the Rio Olympics.  

“I find it quite difficult swapping back and forwards between the road and track. It does take me a bit of time to come back so that is why I have decided to focus purely on the track leading in to Tokyo which is the goal,” she said.

New Zealand’s Rushlee Buchanan provided another highlight for locals, winning the Tempo race before finishing sixth overall. 

Greece's Christos Volikakis won a highly active men's scratch race as one of six riders to take a lap during the 60-lap race.

As attacks continued in the closing stages of the race with riders looking to dart off the front Volikakis waited patiently in the bunch. The former sprinter opened his powerful turn of speed in the final 100 metres to ride himself to the gold medal ahead of Thery Schir (Switzerland) and Stefan Matzner (Austria).

Sunday’s final day action features the men’s sprint, women’s keirin, men’s omnium, women’s scratch and madison.

CAPTION: Eddie Dawkins with his gold medal in the men’s keirin. (Credit: Guy Swarbrick)