New Zealand team pursuit grab silver in Nations Cup in Cairo

Road, Track & Cyclocross
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The New Zealand women’s endurance team were on the podium again in the second UCI Nations Cup track competition in Cairo today.

The women won the silver medal in the 4000m team pursuit, pipped by one second to France in the final, but scoring strong points to seal qualification for the world championships.

There was a new-look men’s team pursuit combination who finished fourth after being pipped for the bronze in a close ride against Germany.

A significant challenge for riders was the open-sided velodrome in Cairo, with unseasonal strengthening winds and cool conditions around 16C deg providing a unique challenge.

The women’s quartet of Bryony Botha, Ally Wollaston, Jessie Hodges and Emily Shearman – the top qualifiers - were too strong for Italy in the first round ride in the morning, catching their opponents in the final 1000m after being consistently faster throughout.

They changed the line-up for the final with Samantha Donnelly coming in for Hodges, who had to ride the elimination later in the evening.

It proved a tight battle against France, who began with intent, opening a 1.2s lead after 1000m. They extended that to 1.5s at 2000 and 2.2s after 3000m. The New Zealand team turned up the heat in the final kilometre, closing to 1.4s down with two laps remaining and 1s at the finish.

“The performance was pretty good with two new riders coming into the team,” said Bryony Botha. “Of course we were gutted that we didn’t get the gold.

“At the start of the week we talked about making the right decisions and looking out for eachother and delivering a good performance with three solid rounds over the two days. We achieved that and can be proud of our performance here.”

Botha said the conditions were unique.

“The conditions were challenging. The winds were something we had not encountered before in a velodrome. It was a bit nerve-wracking the first few days on the track and it took a while to get used to.

“It was also quite cold and we had to make sure we remained warm which meant we spent a bit more time warming up.”

The men’s team pursuit had to settle for fourth place after a photo-finish against Germany in the bronze medal ride.

Earlier New Zealand were well beaten by a strong French team in the first round to push them into the bronze medal ride.

The kiwis were 1s down at 1000m, and 1.5s at the midway point before the men in black turned up the heat, drawing level at the 3000m mark. Both teams could not be separated in the final 1000m with Germany awarded the bronze medal by just 0.2s.

“The boys can be proud of the performance especially with the development riders with myself and Kyle Aitkin coming in for our first Nations Cup,” said newcomer Keegan Hornblow.

“The conditions were challenging. Not many people here would have ridden on a track like this in these conditions. That was the key for us … being adaptable and leaving our best out on the track.”

The women’s team sprint combination of Ellesse Andrews, Olivia King and Rebecca Petch rode 49.179s in qualifying to miss out on the top-eight ride-off by just 0.1s.

George Jackson recovered from the team pursuit to finish ninth in a 20-strong field in the men’s elimination race while Jessie Hodges was an early casualty in the women’s endurance.

Attention moves to individual races tomorrow with King and Andrews in the individual sprint, Sexton in the omnium, Callum Saunders in the keirin and Botha and Wollaston combining in the madison.

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