The Vantage Elite women’s team pursuit produced a courageous performance to claim the bronze medal on the second day of the UCI Track World Championships in Poland.
Three of the pursuit team had succumbed to illness that has affected a number of the squad, but they edged their way into the medal ride-off and then dominated perennial rivals Canada in the bronze medal race.
South Canterbury rider Holly Edmondston rode in both races despite illness while Rushlee Buchanan needed help to get off her bike after the first round, and was replaced by Michaela Drummond for the medal ride.
It followed a splendid effort from Tom Sexton who claimed the bronze medal in the men’s 15km scratch race, after a bold move three laps from the finish almost brought him victory.
The women’s quartet of Buchanan, Bryony Botha, Edmondston and Kirstie James clocked 4:17.980 in their first-round ride to be third fastest with top seeds Australia and defending champions Italy to ride.
Australia went top with a superb 4:13.913 while Italy matched New Zealand’s splits until the final 1000m, fading to 4:18.528 to ensure the Kiwis would ride for the bronze medal against Canada.
With Drummond replacing Buchanan, the New Zealanders were always in front, ahead by 0.2s at 1000m and by 0.7s at 2000m. They put on the pressure with the Canadians dropping a rider as the Kiwis pushed their margin to over two seconds at 3000m as they rode clear in 4:16.479, less than half a second from their national record.
“We have definitely come a long way since last year,” said Botha, “We’ve probably been on the track a bit too long and have been a bit rundown for these world champs.
“But we’ve come in feeling confident and confident about each other in performing and getting the bronze medal tonight.
“A key was the three riders who were ill who did everything they could to be better for race day. They missed trainings to recover but we were able to get them better to race.
“This result means everything. We have come such a long way in just one year so I am excited to see what we can do in another year.”
Sexton, part of the team pursuit on the first day, came out with a fresh approach to a stacked men’s scratch race, covering key moves early before a brave move three laps from home. He moved to a solo lead, and was only caught on the final turn by winner Scott Welsford from Australia and Roy Eefting from Netherlands but was clear in third.
“There was a lot of passion out there. That was the main theme of the race. Enjoy it and have a bit of fun. And I came off with a bronze medal,” Sexton said.
“I wanted to follow all the moves. The plan was to go with two and a half laps to go and not look back which is what I did. Once I went it was full commitment to the line and a couple of chasers came and rolled me but I gave it everything.”
Earlier Eddie Dawkins had to settle for ninth overall in the keirin, with his chances compromised when he rode off the track to avoid an accident in front of him in the semifinal.
Natasha Hansen qualified ninth fastest in the women’s sprint in a slick 10.865 behind top qualifier Stephanie Morton (AUS) in 10.546. Hansen won her first round match but was edged out by 0.08s at the line by Ukraine’s Olena Starikova in the second round.
Team mate Olivia Podmore also qualified in 11.126s but lost in the first round.
Tomorrow sees Buchanan entered for the women’s omnium and Dawkins and Nick Kergozou in the men’s 1000m time trial.