Blistering bronze for Matt the ’Mule’ Archibald
When it comes to the New Zealand men's sprint squad, Matt Archibald is the fifth Beatle.
While the Fab Four of Eddie Dawkins, Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster and Simon van Velthooven have been blazing a new trail in international cycling, Archibald, who only rode his first national championships in 2008 after converting from rowing, has been doing his apprenticeship behind the scenes.
The former Cycling Southland development officer got his chance to shine with a ride in the 1000m time trial at the Commonwealth Games yesterday morning.
He smashed six seconds off his personal best time and broke the Games record before being overtaken by teammate Simon van Velthooven, who would take silver, and Australian Scott Sunderland, who defended the title he won in Delhi four years ago and also reclaimed the record.
While van Velthooven was disappointed he had not been able to push for the gold medal in one of his favoured events, Archibald was taking plenty of satisfaction from his result and with good reason, according to New Zealand sprint coach Anthony Peden.
''I believed in Matt the whole year. We targeted that event for him as his specialty event here and we put a lot of work in. To be honest, I'm probably more happy for Matt, because out of the whole group he's the only guy that hasn't missed one training session since worlds.
"He's put in, and it's a credit to him. It pays off and it's really nice.''
The 1000m time trial, or kilo, is not an Olympic event, so for Archibald it holds a popular, but not entirely useful, place in the BikeNZ sprint programme.
''Any time you get an opportunity to stand on the dais with the silver fern on you've got to take it, because it's an awesome feeling. If I got the opportunity again I'd take it, but we are all 100 per cent focussed on the Olympics,'' he said.
''This is just a stepping-stone for me to get better at riding, because I'm pretty ugly out there on a bike.''
Archibald didn't realise he'd broken the Games record until he saw his fiance, Hannah Shand, yelling in the stands.
His time of 1:01.162 was half a second faster than even he knew he could ride. The man the other riders refer to as Mule had kicked.
''Athletically he's phenomenal,'' Peden said.
''The power he puts out is enormous. We've still got some technical work ons with Matt that are going to see great improvements.
"Matt would have gone to the line knowing he's done everything asked of him, everything he could. That was a PB, a Commonwealth record. I can't be happier.''
None of which should take away from van Velthooven's 1:01.060 for silver which would have broken the record set by Sunderland in Delhi.
A bad crash in Japan in June left the Palmerston North rider with hip and ankle problems, and he's also struggled with kidney issues this year.
''That was a really good result tonight,'' Peden said after his two charges had climbed the Games dais.
''We didn't have a fantastic buildup for worlds and we managed to do everything we could and got him a [bronze] medal there. He's been up and down a little bit in Japan and he's had not the greatest of health a couple of times.
"He knows himself his preparation hasn't been perfect, so it was a phenomenal ride as well.''