Omnium rookie Aaron Gate beats the world
New Zealand's omnipresence in the omnium knows no bounds with Aaron Gate winning the country's second world championship gold medal in five years in the testing six-discipline event.
Christchurch's Hayden Godfrey, who won the omnium title at Manchester in 2008, reckons there could be more Kiwi success ahead because of a natural versatility in the velodrome.
Gate had an agonising wait before having his crown confirmed in Belarus yesterday after winning two of the three second-day events and beating his chief rivals in the other.
The 22-year-old Aucklander, riding in his first international omnium, was the man in Minsk, triumphing over defending world champion Glenn O'Shea (Australia) and Denmark's Olympic champion Norman Hansen.
Godfrey said he was "pretty happy to hear" of Gate's victory.
"I'd been following his progress. He must have had a really cracker second day . . . it all went his way. He's a nice guy, too; he definitely deserves it."
Godfrey said he wouldn't be surprised if more Kiwis achieved omnium success in the future because "our riders do a full range of events coming up as youngsters and always end up getting good skills across the board".
"We don't get led off down a single path."
Godfrey said Gate had joined "a pretty select group" of New Zealand cycling world champions, including himself, Greg Henderson, Karen Holliday, Sarah Ulmer, Alison Shanks and BMX rider Sarah Walker.
Gate's medal was the third won by the five-strong Kiwi contingent in Minsk after silvers by the men's sprint team and Simon Van Velthooven in the 1km time trial.
Godfrey said it had been an excellent world championships for New Zealand.
"They sent one of the smallest teams they've had for a while to the world champs after budget constraints after [the Olympic Games in] London, but it's been one of our most successful."
Gate, who was guided by New Zealand coach Dayle Cheatley, had to wait "a heart pumping" 10 minutes for O'Shea to have a re-ride after suffering a mechanical issue. But his Australian rival came up short in his final kilo ride and Gate took gold.
"It's not sunk in," Gate said.
"I was an unknown really because I've not really done one before so to come away with a world title is every cyclist's dream.
"Once [O'Shea] crossed the line and I saw the time, I was ecstatic.
"It was great to have the support from the BikeNZ support staff and the sprinters in the pits. That made it all worth it.
"I had a feeling of relief . . . I am just overjoyed."
Gate produced a personal best of 4min 21.60sec to win the 4000m individual pursuit and move into second equal overall at the start of the second day.
He was fourth in the scratch race which gave him a share of the lead with O'Shea while Hansen fell two points behind.
Gate only had to finish second behind Hansen and beat O'Shea in his very first kilo race at international level. But he proceeded to blitz the field in 1min 2.271sec.
The new world champion now hopes to add the omnium to his team pursuit aspirations at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
"It is early days yet. I guess I have shown that I can ride it well and hopefully I can still improve in the other events. The points race I was quite disappointed because it is a race I am usually strong in, so there's a bit to learn there because it is different style of race in an omnium where everyone is trying to conserve as much energy as possible. I am definitely looking at it as an option going forward alongside the team pursuit."