THE pain of Rio is beginning to fade for Australia’s new-look track cycling team that started its road to redemption with team pursuit gold and silver at the world championships in Hong Kong on Thursday night.
The men were just outside the world record in 3 mins 51.503 secs to beat New Zealand in the final before the women went a long way to burying their demons from last year with silver in a thrilling final against the US.
In a sign of just how much both teams have changed since last year’s Games, only three of the eight riders (men’s and women’s combined) raced in Rio.
Sam Welsford was the sole member of the men’s team that took silver in Brazil and was joined in the final in Hong Kong by Cameron Meyer, Nick Yallouris and Alex Porter. Kelland O’Brien and Rohan Wight were also used in qualifying and the first round in further proof of Australia’s increasing depth.
For comeback king Meyer, it was the seventh world title of his career and his first in the team pursuit since 2010.
“It’s been a long time between drinks I guess you could say … the feeling is still the same, it’s unbelievable to win a world title and I couldn’t have started the championships any better and I’m ecstatic for the rest of the guys,” Meyer said.
“I think we got everything we wanted out of it, three really consistent, solid rides, and we used six riders.
“So the experience we got, some might have only done one round, but they did it at world class times and under enormous pressure.
“The ultimate goal we kept talking about was the win, we wanted the world title first and if the (world) record comes that’s a bonus.
“To ride a 51 and win the world title is what we wanted to do.”
In the women’s team pursuit, Ashlee Ankudinoff and Amy Cure were both in Rio last year when their squad crashed on the eve of competition and finished fifth.
On Thursday night they teamed up with newcomers Rebecca Wiasak and Alex Manly to be pipped for gold on the line by the Americans in 4 mins 19 secs.
Still, the result will be seen as an endorsement of coach Gary Sutton whose job as women’s track endurance coach was advertised on the eve of the championships.
The men have now won the rainbow jersey in the TP in six of the past eight years but the nation has been unable to stand on the top step of the podium at an Olympics since 2004.
All the pre-race hype in the men’s final centred on whether Australia would break the world record which has belonged to Great Britain since 2008.
The Aussies went within 0.3 of a second of it in Thursday’s qualifying and it may well have fallen had they not had to go wide on the track to pass Great Britain.
They were on world record pace after 2km in the final against the Kiwis and lost Yallouris in the closing stages but still had enough to defend their world title.
Post-race, debutant Yallouris said “words can’t describe” how he was feeling after claiming his first rainbow jersey.
“Massive thanks to the guys and Tim Decker especially for believing in my ability and trusting I would deliver in the final, I’m ecstatic,” he said.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous, but the past six months I’ve put in a lot of work and had to back myself and the team’s ability and trust the process, and we did it.”
Their medals came a day after Kaarle McCulloch and Stephanie Morton won silver in the women’s team sprint.
The pair rode an Australian record in what was the nation’s best finish in the event at a world championships since McCulloch rode with Anna Meares to win silver in 2012.
Originally published as Team work puts Australia back on top
SOURCE: newsnow sport