Double team pursuit gold medals for Australia highlighted the opening day of the 2019-2020 TISSOT UCI Track Cycling World Cup on Friday at the Anna Meares Velodrome in Brisbane.
Reigning world champions Georgia Baker, Ashlee Ankudinoff, Annette Edmondson, Alexandra Manly, plus Podium Potential Academy member Maeve Plouffe, guided Australia to gold in the women’s event. In the men’s, world champions Sam Welsford, Leigh Howard, Kelland O’Brien, Alexander Porter plus Podium Potential Academy member Luke Plapp secured Australia’s second gold.
Four events were decided on day one, with Japan and Poland claiming gold in the men’s and women’s team sprint respectively.
In the women’s team pursuit, little separated Australia and New Zealand in qualifying with the all-black skinsuits quartet of Holly Edmondston, Bryony Botha, Michaela Drummond and Racquel Sheath setting the fastest time (4:16.573), just two-tenths ahead of Australia’s Baker, Ankudinoff, Manly and Plouffe.
With Edmondson replacing Ankudinoff for their first-round matchup against the United States, the team booked their place in the gold medal final (4:12.889) with a scorching ride was just half a second outside their national record set at last week’s World Cup.
Ankudinoff returned for Manly in an enthralling final which saw the Australians stop the clock at 4mins 13.237secs to take the gold medal by three-tenths of a second over their Trans-Tasman rivals (4:13.553).
The result evened the ledger between the two teams after the Australians took silver behind New Zealand at last week’s Cambridge World Cup.
“We don’t get the opportunity to race in front of a home crowd, especially at a World Cup, so we wanted to go out firing and win gold,” said Edmondson.
“I think we are heading in the right direction, and we have been working pretty hard behind the scenes, we wanted to do some fast times here in Brisbane, we have ticked some boxes, and will use it as inspiration to keep the momentum for the Olympics.
“Maeve is only 20 years old and has a lot of power behind her considering she is so young. She has only been in training with us for the last month so to be able to ride three strong rides today and also a couple of rides over in New Zealand last week is promising.
“We also have Amy Cure at home, so we know that we have the numbers here and it is very exciting moving forward.”
In another race of rivalries, Canada (4:17.509) defeated the United States (4:21.540) for bronze.
In the men’s team pursuit, world champions Sam Welsford, Leigh Howard, Kelland O’Brien, Alexander Porter plus Podium Potential Academy member Luke Plapp secured Australia’s second gold with an emphatic victory over New Zealand.
The quartet of Welsford, Howard, O’Brien and Porter claimed the honours in the qualifying stage with the best time (3:50.017), one second ahead of New Zealand.
Plapp came in for Porter in the first round, with the Australians clocking their second-fastest time behind their world record (3:48.282) and New Zealand (3:48.244) nudging the world record to set up a mouth-watering final.
In front of the packed crowd, the two teams arm-wrestled over the first two kilometres, before the Australians rode away to take the gold (3:49.776), four seconds ahead of New Zealand (3:53.601).
“Wearing our rainbows in front of a hometown was awesome. After winning the silver in New Zealand last week, it was so good to have a win on the boards. It just shows that we have some good talent heading into the Olympics next year,” said Welsford.
“The conditions this evening were very fast, and they just tapered off with the storm passing through so we were lucky enough to go 48.2 in the first round, which is the second-fastest time we have ever done.
“We are pleased with how we performed today.”
Podium Potential Academy member Lucas Plapp was ecstatic with the result and the overall team effort.
“The culture of the team is pretty amazing, Tim has been with us the whole way, and Matty Gilmore stepped up for this weekend. We can’t thank our support staff enough,” said Plapp.
In the women’s team sprint, Poland’s Marlena Karwacka and Urszula Łoś claimed the gold over the Russian Federation pairing of Ekaterina Rogovaya and Anastasiia Voinova in an exhilarating final which was decided by a photo finish.
Poland was the team to beat all day after topping qualifying before going on to beat Ukraine in the first round heats to book their spot in the gold medal race.
“We are very thrilled to race in front of such an enthusiastic crowd, this is the first World Cup medal that we have won, so we are very excited to take home a medal and some koalas,” said Łoś.
Reigning world champion Steph Morton teamed with Caitlin Ward to win the bronze medal (33.164) over New Zealand (33.511).
In the men’s team sprint, the Japanese trio took the gold medal (42.912) beating Poland by three seconds. After topping the qualifying and beating Gazprom Rusvelo by half a second in the heats, New Zealand (43.406) defeated Great Britain (44.177) in the bronze medal race.
The Australian trio Matthew Richardson, Nathan Hart and Thomas Cornish qualified fourth before falling to Great Britain in the first round heats.