NZ's men's sprint team aiming to build dynasty

MARK GEENTY IN GLASGOW
Last updated 05:00 26/07/2014

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It's a fearsome and fabulous sight, all at once.

An even 100 kilograms of pure Southlander, perched on 7.5kg of bike frame and wheels, clad in black and hurtling over the boards at 70 kilometres an hour in helmet and goggles. This is the human missile otherwise known as Eddie Dawkins, anchorman for the men's sprint team, who struck Glasgow gold yesterday.

Dawkins, Ethan Mitchell and Sam Webster punched the air then bellowed God Defend New Zealand at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, capping a memorable opening night.

After years of proud tradition in endurance on track and road, this is where it's at for New Zealand cycling now. Hail the speed men, coached by Anthony Peden, a former lone wolf.

"I was the only sprinter," he said. "It was just me. I never thought I'd see this, it's such a beautiful sight."

Among the vanquished were some of the world's best. England's Jason Kenny was in the beaten team, 0.52sec behind the New Zealand trio. Kenny was Great Britain's golden boy of the London Olympic velodrome two years ago, along with Hoy, who retired and is now the face of these Games with a venue named after him.

With Simon van Velthooven, already with Olympic bronze to his name, and Matt Archibald both flying along, a dynasty in black is building.

In Hoy's absence it was muted at the track and New Zealand and Australia dominated. The Aussies won the teams pursuit and the remarkable Anna Meares stormed home in the 500m time trial.

Meanwhile, another cycling knight, Bradley Wiggins, departed with silver from England's team pursuit, his solitary appearance at this Games falling flat. Used to dominating, be it Tour de France or Olympic time trial, he wandered past in his red and white lycra looking bemused and less than amused.

British Prime Minister David Cameron showed up in the VIP area, was captured on the big screen then slipped out a side door.

So with a fair few empty seats and the locals having little to roar about, it was left to pockets of Kiwi fans to wave flags and scream their lungs out. Dawkins' parents Bill and Julie were among them.

The sprint trio described by their coach as chalk and cheese as individuals, have trained and lived together solid for several years. With Mitchell leading out, Webster second wheel and Dawkins bringing it home, they were polished and poised. Dawkins and Webster qualified second and third fastest in the individual sprint earlier; they were flying.

With Dawkins 25 and the others two years younger (and a touch lighter at 83kg apiece), they can plot world dominance starting in Rio de Janeiro in two years' time, after winning this year's world championship.

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"It's something special,"Peden said. "We've got three different characters in there and a team of champions can be beaten by a champion team. Luckily at the moment we've got a champion team.

"These guys have so much respect for one another and that's huge. That was the one thing I noticed right away, how tight they were." And they can go quicker, too, with Germany's world record still 1.7sec away," said Peden.

"We'll go faster and we'll take world records as well."

- Stuff

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