TRACK CYCLING: Rebecca Wiasak has defended her Individual Pursuit World Title while both Australian Team Sprint Sprints just missed out on a medal in London.
Canberra’s Rebecca Wiasak (ACT) secured back-to-back pursuit world titles with a dominant performance in the women’s event on Wednesday.
Wiasak blitzed the afternoon qualifying session with a Lee Valley Velopark track record time of 3mins 31.287secs, over three seconds faster than Poland’s Malgorzata Wojtyra (3:34.519).
In the final, Wiasak wowed the sell out parochial British crowd as she established an advantage of 1.4 seconds after the opening kilometre.
Wiasak doubled her margin by the half way mark and continued to drive the pedals toward another rainbow jersey, storming home over the final kilometre to claim the gold in 3mins 34.099secs, nearly eight seconds clear of Wojtyra (3:41.904).
“I'm so grateful to have been given the opportunity to defend my title,” said a humble Wiasak after pulling on her second career rainbow jersey from two starts.
“It is an incredible feeling. I am thrilled to be able to have pulled it off and feels just as special as last year.
“You come to the World Championship wanting to win, but everything has to come together on the day, I had full faith in the staff around me, Sutto (Gary Sutton), Ian McKenzie. They all got me here today.
“And velodrome record this morning and a time of 3.31, which is world class. But the jersey and the gold medal just top off that record.”
Having claimed individual honours for the second straight year, the team oriented Wiasak has already switched her focus to the team event, for which she is a reserve for the reigning world champion Australian outfit.
“The whole squad is going really well, I fed off the confidence built up by our whole squad training so well in the lead-up.
“Our team still has a few jobs to do here and I'm very excited to watch the next two days of competition and of course come in as the reserve in case I'm needed,” added Wiasak.
Annie Foreman-Mackey (CAN) took the final spot on the podium (3:36.055).
Women's Team Sprint
Three-time world champion Anna Meares (SA) and Stephanie Morton (SA) were narrowly edged by Germany in the bronze medal final by just one tenth of a second.
In the afternoon qualifying session, only twelve hundredths of a second separated Morton and Meares (32.820) from Germany’s three-time world champion and Olympic champion outfit of Miriam Welte and Kristina Vogel (32.808).
In the final, Meares launched Australia out of the gate and to a narrow advantage after the opening lap. However a late surge by Germany saw them surge ahead in the dying stages to take the bronze medal in 32.740secs, just ahead of Australia (32.871).
“Disappointing, obviously, but at the same time I think it's quite justified as to where we are, what we're targeting and what our goals are,” said Meares. “I feel like both Steph and I did a really good job, yes we have work to do but we're not out of the picture.”
The current depth and strength of Australian women’s sprinting is evident, with Australia boasting three world class team sprint riders from which to form a team sprint line up.
“I rode second wheel last year with Kaarle (McCulloch), we didn't even ride a team sprint the year before,” said Meares who won three straight titles between 2009 and 2011 with McCulloch. “So we've gone from not really having much of a combination to having an excess of combinations that are possible.”
This has allowed Australia to place the necessary emphasis required on the team sprint competition given the top nine teams in the UCI rankings after the World Championships receive two positions in the sprint and keirin at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, rather than one.
“The team sprint is the most important event essentially, with the Olympics as the main goal,” explained Meares. “But it's not winning the team sprint, it's qualifying in the team sprint.
“So we've done our job, we've done it very differently this year and it's made it very challenging for myself, for Steph, for all those in the sprint team, but we know where we're going with it.”
Meares and Morton along with McCulloch will now line up on Thursday in the keirin.
In the gold medal final, Russia was awarded the gold medal over defending champions China after officials relegated the Chinese team for an incorrect change.
Men's Team Sprint
That is all that separated Australia from a medal ride in the afternoon qualifying, with Matthew Glaetzer (SA), Nathan Hart (ACT) and debutant Patrick Constable (SA) finishing fifth overall.
Riding in the fifth of seven heats in qualifying, the trio posted a time of 33.497secs, the second fastest of the competition to that point.
In the very next heat, they were eclipsed by Germany (33.496) by just 0.001secs, before the final two teams to hit the track and the winners of the past two titles New Zealand (43.096) and France (43.487) - pushed Australia into fifth and out of the medal rounds by the narrowest of margins.
“It's frustrating for sure. We came here to race finals, but at the same time, that's sport,” said Glaetzer, the 2012 team sprint world champion. “But we won the 2012 world title by that same margin, that’s just sport.
“From third to fifth was within one-hundredth of a second, so we can't be too disappointed, it's as close as you'll ever get to getting top four.”
Glaetzer, 23, who posted the second fastest second lap during the qualifying round, was quick to praise his younger teammates in Hart, 21, and debutant Constable, 20.
“We've got such a young team and it's the first time we raced with that threesome, so to be in the mix with the big countries at this time of year is really encouraging,” added Glaetzer.
“We just focus on making sure we execute it right, which I think we did. So I've got to be happy with that.”
Glaetzer and Constable now look to the sprint and keirin events, while first-wheel specialist Hart’s campaign is over after just one lap of the London Velodrome.
New Zealand will battle the Netherlands for gold, while Germany will face France.
Men's Team Pursuit
Australia will face defending champions New Zealand in Thursday’s first round of the men’s team pursuit after posting the second fastest time in Wednesday qualifying.
The third last team of 14 to set to the track, five-time world champion Michael Hepburn (QLD) and 2014 world champion Miles Scotson (SA)teamed with debutants Alex Porter (SA) and Sam Welsford (WA) went to the top of the scoreboard with a scorching time of 3mins 55.867secs.
In the very next heat, the Great Britain outfit featuring six-time world champion Sir Bradley Wiggins, edged the Australians into second fastest by just two tenths of a second (3:55.664).
“I think we had a good ride, certainly for a qualifying ride it was quick,” said Hepburn, in his first ride for Australia at the World Championships since 2013.
“It was all about execution today. I think pacing-wise we executed it as we planned.
“Whether you qualify one, two or three is not a big difference. We had our plan and we just wanted to stick to our schedule and get four guys through the race, which is basically what we did.”
Round one will be held on Thursday afternoon with Australia pitted against third fastest qualifiers and defending champions New Zealand (3:57.050). Great Britain will battle Italy.
The finals will be held on Thursday evening.