New Zealand's men's cycling pursuit team hope the old adage about a poor dress rehearsal rings true as they eye a trans-Tasman clash early tomorrow to book a spot in the Olympic gold medal ride.
Sam Bewley, Marc Ryan, Jesse Sergent and Westley Gough qualified third fastest in the 4km pursuit at a red hot Olympic velodrome which saw Great Britain smash the world record, one of several to tumble on the opening night at the track.
Great Britain's time of 3min 52.499sec lopped 0.8sec off their own world record set in Melbourne in April. Australia clocked 3.55.694 and New Zealand 3.57.607, more than 2sec outside their best time set in Invercargill in November.
The Kiwis were 0.7sec clear of fourth-ranked Denmark, meaning they face Australia for a spot in the gold medal ride. If they lose they need to be in the fastest two of the other six teams to ride for bronze, which they won with Hayden Roulston in Beijing in 2008.
“It's going to be a good race. We didn't ride as fast and as well as we wanted to. We didn't quite execute it right, and looking at the Aussie team it'd probably be the same situation in their camp. There's two teams that are capable of going much quicker in the next round,” Bewley said.
“It's a fast track; the Poms have showed that by breaking the world record by well over half a second. The world record will get broken again, and every other team is going to be quicker. I think we've got 2-3 seconds in us. We're going to have to have 2-3 seconds in us if we want to have a shot at the gold medal ride.”
The New Zealanders were seventh of the 10 teams to ride and held the fastest time before it was obliterated by the home nation. They lost Marc Ryan late in the ride, while Australia also dropped off Glenn O'Shea.
“It's just about getting through 3-3.5km as fast as you can then holding on. Unfortunately we slowed down a little bit too early. We were the same at the worlds. In the qualifying we didn't have a great ride then came out in the final 2.5sec quicker, so same again tomorrow hopefully,” Bewley said.
He felt they would have to dip well under their national record of 3.55.295 to have a chance of toppling Australia who will be heavily favoured to meet Great Britain for the gold.
Bewley said they had been confident of qualifying in the top four. Denmark were the surprise package, recording 3.58.298 so will provide a threat in the ride for bronze if both teams lose to their higher-rated opponents and record the two fastest times of the other teams.
The other New Zealand team in action, the men's sprint, rode a national record and gave France a big fright before dipping out of medal contention to finish fifth.
The team of Ethan Mitchell, Eddie Dawkins and Simon van Velthooven needed to beat France to make the top four and went a slick 43.495sec, beating their best time of 43.742. Mitchell had them in front after the first lap against powerhouse Gregory Bauge but France were too strong, winning in 42.991.
Great Britain, inspired by the legendary Chris Hoy, brought the house down by beating France for the gold medal and clocking a world record 42.600.
New Zealand were fifth fastest. They put in a disappointing ride of 44.175sec in the qualifying rounds which saw them go in seventh fastest to face France, who qualified second.
“We just had to come back out and lay it all down. We knew in that second ride we had to break the world record to get a medal ride. As it turns out the guys who beat us broke the world record,” sprint coach Justin Grace said. "No disgrace there and a big chunk off our PB, so we can walk away with our heads high.”
- The Marlborough Express