NZ cyclists on track for world champs glory
New Zealand looks set for an equal best performance at the world track cycling championships, with podium finishes by Tom Scully and Simon van Velthooven in Colombia yesterday.
Scully claimed second in a thrilling men's points race at the open-air velodrome in Cali; a finish that followed van Velthooven's bronze in the men's 1 kilometre time trial final.
The two podium finishes represent New Zealand's fourth and fifth medals at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships, ensuring the overall total will match the team's best effort ever.
New Zealand finished with five podiums in Melbourne in 2012, when the team brought home one gold and four bronze.
Melbourne was also the scene of the best effort, in terms of golds, by a Kiwi team, when Sarah Ulmer won the women's individual pursuit and Greg Henderson claimed the men's scratch title.
Scully, who ended with 66 points, made a strong start in the points race, and looked to have the race in hand for much of the first half of the 40km.
However, Colombian rider Edwin Alcibiades Avila Vanegas, who finished with 70 points, took the race by the scruff of the neck, forcing the Kiwi down the field.
The race featured a thrilling final lap, essentially a sprint finish for Scully and Avila Vanegas. But the hometown hero kept on Scully's rear wheel, so the Kiwi was unable to outscore him. Spain's Eloy Teruel Rovira finished third with 58 points.
Van Velthooven's bronze in the men's 1km time trial redeemed his World Championships performance, after he was disqualified in the second round of the keirin. The Kiwi, who won a silver medal at last year's world championships in Belarus, finished his final run in 1 minute 0.518 seconds; 1.133 seconds behind eventual gold medallist Francois Pervis of France, who was the last to cycle.
"They are two completely different competitions," van Velthooven said, of the two events.
"I was not angry, just frustrated yesterday that such a small infraction cost disqualification. Today I tried as hard as I could and left it all out there."
Van Velthooven started slowly, but the Manawatu-raised cyclist finished strongly for the medal. German Joachim Eilers finished second, with a ride of 59.984.
"The last lap is my strength. I could hear the crowd cheer and I went harder and really put the foot down. That world title still eludes me but there are not many 25-year-olds who have three world medals in the Kilo."
Kiwi Aaron Gate finished second in the third of six men's omnium races yesterday. Gate, the reigning omnium world champion, sits fourth equal in the event's overall rankings, topped by France's Thomas Boudat. The three final men's omnium races take place today.
Kiwis Sam Webster and Matthew Archibald will compete in the men's sprint event.
Earlier last week, New Zealand sprint team Webster, Ethan Mitchell and Eddie Dawkins claimed the world title in their event, while Marc Ryan claimed a bronze in the men's individual pursuit. Gate, Ryan, Pieter Bulling and Dylan Kennett also won bronze in the men's team pursuit.