Key track pursuit riders eyeing road careers

ROAD BECKONS: Sam Bewley, Marc Ryan, Jesse Sergent and Aaron Gate pictured winning the bronze medal in the men's team pursuit.
ROAD BECKONS: Sam Bewley, Marc Ryan, Jesse Sergent and Aaron Gate pictured winning the bronze medal in the men's team pursuit.

New Zealand's stirring ride for Olympic team pursuit bronze marked the end of a cycling era, with key men Jesse Sergent and Sam Bewley almost certain to farewell the track for the road.

Both confirmed they would quit the track for an indefinite period to focus on their budding road careers with Radioshack and Orica GreenEdge teams, respectively. It means the pursuit team, which strung together back-to-back Olympic bronzes at the heaving velodrome yesterday, faces a major rebuild after being New Zealand's track medal banker in recent years.

“I said to myself after this I'll take a break from the track. Whether it's for good or whatever, I don't really know,” Sergent said.

“I definitely want to go down a road path and see how far I can go over the next few years. I'm looking forward to that and it's nice to walk away from the track and have two bronze medals from the Olympic Games, it feels good.”

The 24-year-old from Feilding put in a mighty shift just after the halfway mark as Russia, who they beat comfortably in the world championship ride-off for bronze in April, snatched a small lead at the 2000m mark. Sergent surged, leading the team for 2 laps and by the 3000m point they had a handy half-second up their black sleeves.

Having made his big race debut in the Giro d'Italia this year, more is to come as Sergent looks to follow the successful road careers of compatriots Julian Dean and Greg Henderson into the Tour de France.

“It [Giro] is definitely a big hard race but I enjoyed it and I definitely came out of it stronger. Now I'm starting to feel it more and more. I think it takes years and years to be a good rider in those three-week races. I'd like to see how far it can go.”

First, this experience was for savouring. The 6000-strong crowd roared for their Great Britain team, who smashed the world record in winning gold in 3m 51.659s. Presented with their medals by Prince Frederik of Denmark, the New Zealanders also got a rousing reception after beating Russia by more than 2s in a time of 3.55.952. Along with Marc Ryan, at his third Olympics, and 21-year-old newcomer Aaron Gate, they were planning a big celebration, along with the unlucky Westley Gough who rode on day one but was omitted for Gate yesterday.

Bewley, 25, also planned an emotional farewell to his pursuit team-mates.

“This is my last team pursuit for a while. I'm going to take a few years off the track for sure. I'm not going to say definitely I'm finished for good on the track but the next couple of years I really want to focus on my road career and establishing myself in the pro road scene.”

All agreed this bronze carried more pressure than Beijing four years ago, which they won with Hayden Roulston, who is now also building a road career.

“It's just about keeping cool heads and being confident in what you can do. We managed to put it all together,” Bewley said.

Sunday Star Times