IT WAS the night two Australians were crowned track cycling world champions after returning to the velodrome where their careers both began and now truly belong.
There was 29-year-old superstar Cameron Meyer who has returned to the fold after five years on the road and looked like he’d never even left by winning the points race.
Then there was Jordan Kerby, a laid back larrikin from Brisbane who works 9-5 in a bike shop and racing his first track world championships since 2011, as he won the individual pursuit.
It was Meyer’s eighth senior world title and Kerby’s first but there was a beautiful symmetry to it. Never more so than when Meyer greeted Kerby on the track after his race and handed him the Australian flag.
Moments earlier, Meyer had returned to the Hong Kong velodrome where he won the team pursuit on Thursday to dominate the event that he has made his own — the points race.
He produced a masterclass to wipe the floor with his rivals and win the event for a fourth time following rainbow jerseys in 2009, 2010 and 2012.
But it was quite possibly the sweetest given he was returning to the track at the age of 29, having walked away from a lucrative WorldTour contract on the road in 2016.
Meyer did not touch a bike for six months last year while rediscovering his passion for the sport.
But what was never questioned was his talent, and once the passion came back, so did the hunger to win and his killer instinct. And oh how it all came flooding back in Hong Kong this week.
The Western Australian was on another level to his competition, putting them to the sword with no mercy in the gruelling points race.
He took early points in bunch sprints then lapped the field twice — the last time with a courageous solo attack — which signalled game over with 20 laps to go.
As he crossed the finish line an emotional Meyer pointed two fingers skyward then kissed the Australian flag when he got to the inside of the track.
“It’s been a pretty full on 48 hours and I loved it, I’m back to what I love doing and to win two rainbow jerseys in my first proper season back on the track I’m over the moon,” he said.
“I knew I’d go out there as probably one of the favourites and it was about keeping calm, I’ve been in this situation before and it was just trying to be confident that I knew in the last half of the race I could be the strongest bike rider. And tonight I was, so I’m really happy.”
Then came Kerby and what will be arguably the most popular gold medal of the week in the Australian camp.
Kerby, 24, had a choice to make when his road career was suddenly cut short last year.
He could either rack the bike, content with what he’d achieved and get on with life. Or he could get a job, start working 9-5 as a cycling coach and go back to the track where his career began.
He chose the latter and kept riding on the velodrome. He didn’t even expect to make the team for the world championships but earned his spot by winning the national title in March, then on Friday night became world champion by beating Italy’s defending world champion Filippo Ganna.
It was Kerby’s first track world titles since 2011 when he was a junior and in qualifying he rode a sizzling 4 min 12 secs which was just 1.5 secs outside the world record.
As a precursor to his final, his 18-year-old teammate Kelland O’Brien produced a commanding ride to claim bronze for Australia as well.
“If you spoke to me three or four months ago, I wouldn’t even think to be here in the first place,” Kerby said.
“So getting here was a bonus and winning is just surreal, in this sport you can go through some terrible lows and something like this happens it just erases everything, it’s amazing, I can’t explain how good it feels.
“I was sitting in an apartment in Girona watching the Rio Games and at the same time I was made aware I was going to lose my contract with Drapac and I was watching and thinking ‘it would be great to go back and just have a go’.
“I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d wear a senior rainbow jersey … I’ll have a good kit to roll to the brew shop in anyway.”
In other racing on Friday night, Stephanie Morton produced a career-best result in the women’s sprint when she made it to the final and claimed silver against reigning Olympic champion Kristina Vogel.
In what has been an impressive championships for Morton after also winning silver in the team sprint with Kaarle McCulloch, she beat Russian Anastasia Voinova and Lithuanian Simona Krupeckaite in the earlier rounds which is a big step in the right direction.
Tasmanian Amy Cure was equally as impressive in the new-look omnium, finishing the multi-leg event with a silver medal behind Great Britain’s Katie Archibald following her silver medal in the team pursuit a day earlier.
Cure put up a brave fight in the final points race and fell just four points shy of the gold medal.
Originally published as Golden night on the track for Aussies
SOURCE: newsnow sport