Aussies deny Kiwis gold
South Canterbury cyclist Dylan Kennett's first day at the UCI Junior World Track Cycling Championships had a silver lining.
The New Zealand team pursuit team finished second behind defending champions Australia in the ride-off for the rainbow jersey last night in Invercargill.
The New Zealand men's combination of Kennett, Liam Aitcheson, Hayden McCormick and Hamish Schreurs had lifted Kiwi hopes earlier in the day, when they qualified at No 1.
New Zealand looked to be well beaten midway through the gold medal final but came storming back into the reckoning when the Australians dropped a rider with seven laps to go.
The Australians, with two riders back from last year, went over two seconds quicker than their earlier ride to stop the clock at 4min 06.277sec to comfortably take the title.
By contrast New Zealand were .001sec faster than their qualifying time, with a 4min 08.345sec ride at the Stadium Southland Velodrome.
Russia comfortably beat the Ukraine in the bronze medal ride-off.
New Zealand had targeted a 4min 06sec in the final but got off to a slow start and were unable to recover.
Despite that, the opportunity to race in front of a home crowd was outstanding, Kennett said.
"Especially with 2km to go and you are starting to hurt the crowd just lifts you."
Tonight Kennett lines up in the kilo time trial, a four-lap dash against the clock and is again a medal contender.
On Saturday the 17-year-old will also race the individual pursuit followed by the madison on Sunday, the final day of competition.
Ultimately, his aims are to use these championships as a springboard to bigger stages.
"That's my big aim, the next Olympics, try to get into that team and the Commonwealth Games in 2014."
At the same event last year, in Moscow, Kennett earned two bronze medals, in the six discipline omnium and team's pursuit, with the Kiwis winning 10 in total.
New Zealanders knew before these junior world track cycling championships that the Stadium Southland velodrome was world class.
Last night, the rest of the cycling world was let in on the secret.
Russia set the tone by becoming the first riders to break a world record at the Invercargill velodrome, during qualifying in the women's team sprint, and Australia followed suit, setting a new world record in the men's team sprint.
Russia broke its own record in the final, going 34.155sec to edge New Zealand's Paige Paterson and Victoria Steel into the silver medal.
Australia set a fourth world record in the women's team pursuit final, forcing the New Zealand combination of Cassie Cameron, Alysha Keith and Racquel Sheath into the silver medal.
It was the first time the opening night of a junior world track championship has ever dished up four world records.
Alexandra's Liam Aitcheson revelled in a rare opportunity to race in the New Zealand skinsuit in front of friends and family.
"It feels pretty good, the home support was great. We would have liked to have won gold but it didn't quite work out that way."
Elsewhere, Mexico pushed New Zealand, including Southlanders Jeremy Presbury and Tom Beadle and Auckland's Zac Williams, out of the medals in the men's team sprint with a blistering ride in the bronze ride-off.
Australia looked like they had backed up from their world record effort during the afternoon by beating Russia in the gold medal final, but they were later relegated to silver for an illegal change, with Russia promoted to world champions just before they climbed the podium.
Tonight's racing includes finals in the men's 10km scratch race and 1000m time trial, and the women's 20km points race.
Men's teams pursuit: 1 Australia 4:06.277; 2 New Zealand 4:08.124; 3 Russia 4:09.132.
Men's team sprint: 1 Russia 46.363 (promoted); 2 Australia 45.468 (relegated); 3 Mexico 46.262.
Women's teams pursuit: 1 Australia 3:29.509; 2 New Zealand 3:30.719; 3 Great Britain 3:30.841.
Women's team sprint: 1 Russia 34.155; 2 New Zealand 35.225; 3 Australia 35.428.
The Timaru Herald