Southland teenager Corbin Strong, in his first year as an elite rider, has won the Points race at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Berlin.
The Vantage elite rider, who led for much of the 40km event, cemented the title when he went with a three-strong break in the final laps to claim a bonus 20 points to secure his rainbow jersey title.
It is the first time a male New Zealand rider has won a Points race world championship. The only other podium was when fellow Southlander Tom Scully won a silver medal at Cali in 2014.
It is the 19-year-old’s second medal of the championships, after winning the silver with the Vantage New Zealand men’s team pursuit.
It signalled a remarkable rise for the young Southlander, who won a junior world championship title in the team pursuit in Switzerland in 2018, and a year previous a bronze medal in the same discipline in Italy.
He forced his way into the elite team on the back of brilliant performances in the World Cup campaign over the summer, just a year after emerging through Cycling New Zealand’s SIT Performance Hub development programme.
“I was put under pressure a few times but fortunate it all came back together and in the last 20 laps I thought it was now or never,” said Strong. “How many opportunities do I get to race for a world title and I am in the perfect position? I just had to give it my everything and that’s what I did. I was over-whelmed with emotion when I crossed the line.
“Yesterday was a big day with the team pursuit. We had high hopes for that but on the day, we were beaten by an unbelievable time. We didn’t come here to get silvers so I was really focussed on having a good run in the points race and see what I could do.”
In doing so Strong upset a number of experienced professionals.
“You can’t afford to go to these races and be intimidated by the big names. I went in riding my own race, looking for my opportunities. It paid off. You can’t afford to come to a world champs and act like you are an underdog.
“I just had the mentality that I had to go out there and act like I am there to win… and that’s what happened. I can’t believe I pulled it off. I am super-proud.”
Cycling New Zealand High Performance Director, Martin Barras said Strong has been a revelation in the programme.
“Every Olympic cycle has one and every Olympic team needs one – a young kid coming through the ranks really talented that doesn’t know anything better other than going hard at things, who handles himself really well with his teammates despite the fact that he is new to the group and is obviously incredibly talented and hard-working,” said Barras.
“He went hard at everything he did. It made for a really hard way to win a bike race but very ,very impressive way to win a bike race as well.
“He is a real asset on the bike but is also a real asset off the bike. He teammates appreciate him. The staff appreciate him. He has this quick wit and a bit of a smart-arse approach that we like and is essential to the make-up of this team.”
In other racing, Nick Kergozou qualified for the finals of the 1000m time trial, finishing seventh in 1:00.707 while Holly Edmondston finished 16th in the four-discipline omnium.
Tomorrow’s penultimate day sees Ethan Mitchell and Sam Webster in the individual sprint, Campbell Stewart in the omnium and Kirstie James, Bryony Botha and Jaime Nielsen in the individual pursuit
Men Points race, 40km: Corbin Strong (NZL) 58 points, 1; Sebastian Mora Vedri (ESP) 40, 2; Roy Eefting (NED) 36, 3.
Women Omnium, scratch: Yumi Kajihara (JPN) 1, Jennifer Valente (USA) 2, Clara Copponi (FRA) 3. Also: Holly Edmondston (NZL) 17. Tempo race: Tatsiana Sharakova (BLR) 27 points, 1; Kajihara 26, 2; Amalie Dideriksen (DEN) 22, 3. Also: Edmondston 11. Elimination: Kirsten Wild (NED) 1, Letizia Paternoster (ITA) 2, Kajihara 3. Also: Edmondston 14. Points: Paternoster 15 points, 1; Daria Pikulik (POL) 14, 2; Lara Kenny (GBR) 12, 3. Also: Edmondston: 2, 12. Final: Kajihara 121, 1; Paternoster 109, 2; Pikulik 100, 3. Also: Edmondston 36, 16.
Men 1000m qualifying: Quentin Lafargue (FRA) 59.324, 1; Sam Ligtee (NED) 59.590, 2; Michael D’Almeida (FRA) 59.974, 3. Also: Nick Kergozou (NZL) 1:00.311, 8. Final: Ligtee 59.495, 1; Lafargue 59.749, 2; D’Almeida 1:00.103, 3. Also: Kergozou 1:00.707, 7.
CAPTION: Corbin Strong celebrating his world championship title. (Credit: Guy Swarbrick)