Girl-power to the fore in winning start for New Zealand track cyclists

Road, Track & Cyclocross
ZW 101074 v2


New Zealand cyclists made an enterprising start to their all-important 2024 campaign, bagging three medals, including two golds, on the opening night of the UCI Track Nations Cup in Adelaide.

The women’s 4000m team pursuit combination led the way, producing an outstanding series of rides to win the gold medal over world champions Great Britain, while the women’s team sprint earned their best result at this level with a bronze medal.

Waikato’s Ally Wollaston, a star on the road last month at the Tour Down Under in Adelaide, returned to the same city on the track. Following an exhausting team pursuit victory, she produced a superb ride to win the elimination race.

Adelaide is the first of three UCI Track Nations Cup competitions which provide crucial qualifying points towards the Paris Olympics.

The women’s quartet of Emily Shearman, Sami Donnelly, Wollaston, and Bryony Botha clocked an impressive 4:10.229 in dominating world champions Great Britain, which reversed the result between the two nations from the Glasgow World Championship final last year.

The New Zealand team had inter-changed riders throughout the competition including their experienced fifth rider Michaela Drummond.

In the final they hit the front after the first lap, up by 0.8s at 1000m, pushing to 1.7sec clear at 2000m, 1.1sec after 3000m and held enough in the tank to win by 0.350sec.

New Zealand qualified second fastest behind Great Britain and then set the fastest time of 4:09.259 in winning their first round clash over Australia to qualify for the final.

“We went in with a learning mindset instead of a winning one,” said the experienced Bryony Botha. “We had some questions we needed answering and I think we achieved that within the three rounds.

“We have a lot of work still to do, especially to be more controlled at the start and really delivering in the second half. We did a good job and everyone is super-proud. We gave it everything and it was cool to beat the world champs.”

Botha said she was delighted with the performance of debutante Sami Donnelly, and the significant improvement in last year’s rookie, Emily Shearman.

“I am pleased with how we are progressing and being able to see that against everyone else in the world.”

There was delight in the bronze medal performance from the women’s team sprint with three excellent rides, with coach Jon Andrews changing their riding order and utilising fourth rider Olivia King. He settled on the world championship combination of Rebecca Petch to start followed by Shaane Fulton with Ellesse Andrews to finish in the medal ride.

Earlier the combination of Petch, Andrews and King were fifth fastest in qualifying in 47.747s, which was only 0.3s slower than the second qualifier China. They clocked 47.401s to account for France in their first round match, qualifying for the bronze medal ride against Poland.

Their winning time of 47.390s was only 0.3s outside their national record set at the world championships, which is impressive for their first competitive ride of this important year, and an invaluable haul of ranking points.

The men finished fourth with a solid performance in the men’s 4000m team pursuit, again falling to their nemesis, Italy, who relied on another freakish display from the world one-hour recordholder, Filipo Ganna to get them home.

New Zealand qualified third fastest in 3:52.705, and while they were beaten by Great Britain in the first round, their time of 3:49.980 was fast enough to earn a spot in the bronze medal ride.

The combination of Aaron Gate, Campbell Stewart, Keegan Hornblow and Tom Sexton found themselves 1.3sec down after 1000m against the Italians but by 3000m the margin had closed to just 0.3sec. However Ganna took over the lead and the Italians pushed clear to win in 3.49.825s with the kiwis over two seconds back. Great Britain claimed the gold medal over hosts Australia.

Three top-four performances provided important ranking points to further solidify their qualification for the Paris Olympics.

New Zealand women will compete in the individual sprint and two-rider madison while the men take on the keirin and four-discipline omnium.

Day 1 results:

Women’s Team Pursuit, qualifying: Great Britain 4:12.311, 1; New Zealand (Bryony Botha, Ally Wollaston, Michaela Drummond, Emily Shearman) 4:13.637, 2; Australia 4:14.566, 3.

First round: New Zealand 4:09.259, 1; Australia A 4:15.057, 2. Great Britain 4:11.438, 1; Canada 4:15.874, 2. USA 4:17.101, 1; Ireland 4:20.545, 2. Australian B 4:17.975, 1; China 4:18.959, 2.

Gold Medal ride: New Zealand 4:10.229, 1; Great Britain 4:10.578, 2. Bronze: Australia 4:14.565, 3 Canada 4:15.734, 4.

Men’s Team Pursuit, qualifying: Australia 3:51.203, 1; Great Britain 3:52.509, 2; New Zealand (Aaron Gate, Campbell Stewart, Keegan Hornblow, Tom Sexton) 3:52.505, 3.

First round: Australian A 3:48.529 1, Italy 3:49.190, 2. Great Britain 3:48.996, 1; New Zealand 3:49.989, 2; Australia B 3:51.875, 1; Canada 3:52.688, 2; Japan 3:50.381, 1; Germany 3:54.816, 2.

Gold medal final: Great Britian 3:48.469, 1; Australia 3:49.876, 2. Bronze: Italy 3:49.825, 3; New Zealand 3:52.873, 4.

Women’s Team Sprint Qualifying: Great Britain 46.610, 1; China 47.403, 2; Poland 47.732, 3. Also New Zealand (Rebecca Petch, Olivia King, Rebecca Petch) 47.747, 5.

First round: New Zealand 47.401, 1; France 47.743, 2; Poland 47.463, 1; Canada 48.069, 2; China 46.277, 1; China B 48.161, 2; Great Britain 46.090, 1; Mexico 48.527, 2.

Gold Medal: Great Britain 46.023, 1; China dnf. Bronze Medal: New Zealand 47.390, 3; Poland 47.686, 4.

Women’s Elimination: Ally Wollaston (NZL) 1, Jennifer Valente (USA) 2, Jessica Roberts (GBR) 3.

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