The Australian Cyclones claimed three gold and two silver medals tonight to move to the top of the medal table with one day of racing to go at the UCI Track World Championships in Melbourne. Australia now has 12 medals made up of five gold, six silver and one bronze medal after 15 of 19 events ahead of Great Britain’s riders who have eight medals, five gold, two silver and one bronze. Germany is next best with two gold and one bronze medal.
Anna Meares backed up from yesterday’s disappointment of third place in the sprint to successfully defend her keirin crown bringing the capacity crowd to their feet as she launched a burst of speed in the final 200 metres to come from the back of the six rider field and claim the win.
The fans barely had time to draw breath before they were on their feet again cheering an all Australian individual pursuit final that saw Michael Hepburn overcome world record holder and 2011 champion Jack Bobridge to claim the rainbow jersey.
Capping off the night West Australian Cameron Meyer reclaimed the points race title with a successful last gasp attack in the dying minutes of the race.
Earlier world titles debutant Annette Edmondson collected her second silver medal of the week finishing three points off gold in the women’s omnium.
Anna Meares, 28, looked in control of the keirin from the start as she worked her way through the first and second rounds to qualify through to the medal final. Once there she took advantage of her current blistering top end speed that saw her break the flying 200 metre world record on Friday. She sat back in the field watching and waiting until the bell lap when she pounced, flying around the outside of her rivals four deep to sail across the line ahead of Russian Evgenia Gnidenko and Germany’s Kristin a Vogel.
The victory comes almost a decade after she claimed her first senior world championships medal, a silver in the keirin at the 2003 titles in Germany.
“To win this world title here, in front of my home crowd, is just fantastic,” said Meares of claiming her ninth world title on the same velodrome where she claimed her first rainbow jersey in 2004 in the 500 metre time trial. “I was really just hoping for one (title) in front of my home crowd and perhaps that’s a little bit greedy given how difficult it is to win one world title.
“But I really fought hard for that one and I’m so proud that I was able able to cross the line first.”
The keirin is an unpredictable race that pits six sprinters against each other over eight laps with the riders, in the case of the women, brought up 45km/h by a motorised bike (derny) over the first 1375 metres before they are left to battle for the line in a helter-skelter two and a half lap final dash.
But whilst Meares appeared to have dominated she rejected suggestions it was an easy win for her admitting she struggled to come to terms with Friday’s sprint defeat.
“My husband sat with me until late last night, just hugged me, made me feel better and made me realise it’s just a bike race in the end,” she explained. “I still felt disappointed when I woke up this morning, but I thought ‘today is a new day, the keirin’s a new chance, I know I’ve got good form, I know I’ve got good strength, I know I’ve got good speed, I’ve just got to back myself in’.
“I wasn’t going to be happy with coming in here and feeling sorry for myself and not performing today.
“It doesn’t make up for last night, it makes today special,” she said. “I’m really proud of the way I was able to pick myself up.”
She also managed to negotiate the slippery walk in bike cleats up the wooden track to clamber onto the fence to hug her husband, friends and first coach Ken “Reggie” Tucker who travelled from Rockhampton to Melbourne to cheer her on.
“Reg said he was as proud of me as if I was his own daughter and he has all boys so that meant a lot to me,” said Meares.
Team mate Kaarle McCulloch won through the keirin first round but in the second was outmaneuvered and missed a berth in the medal final. In the ride off for seventh to 12th place she was third across the line to finish ninth overall.
Men’s 4000 Metre Individual Pursuit
Australia’s next gold came in a race the Cyclones couldn’t lose as best mates, room mates and team mates, Michael ‘Heppy’ Hepburn and Jack Bobridge lined up in the gold medal ride to decide the 2012 individual pursuit world champion.
“I’m really lost for words at the moment,” said Hepburn after his win. “This moment, I’ve pictured a thousand times in my head but you never really understand what it is like to win in front of a home crowd.
“It was a great battle with Jack, it was unfortunate that I had to line up against one of my best mates and my room-mate (but) that was the way it was and fortunately I got across the line.”
Earlier in the day Hepburn, 20, had topped the qualifying round with the third fastest time ever ridden of 4:13.399 to set him up for a shot at the title against world record and title holder, Jack Bobridge, 22, who clocked 4:14.783 in the same heat.
The camaraderie between the pair was evident for most of the day until minutes before the race when they headed to separate sides of the track to wait. Bobridge launched out of the gate with his customary charge trying to establish a buffer against Hepburn’s renowned final kilometre fightback. At the first kilometre mark Bobridge was 1.2 seconds up on Hepburn and at each mark through to 3000 metres Bobridge maintained the margin. But once the riders hit the final four laps Hepburn ignited the after-burners and went after the gold. With every half lap the margin decreased until at two laps to go Hepburn edged his way into a tenth of a second lead.
Bobridge’s tank was empty and Hepburn crossed the finish line to win in a time of 4:15.839, half a second ahead of Bobridge (4:16.313).
But Hepburn said he wasn’t sure at the finish if he had done enough to win.
“I couldn’t quite believe when I went across the line,” he said. “About a kilometre to go, I honestly thought I was not going to make it as Jack was too far ahead. When I went to kick, I did not have as much as I wanted to, but in the end I did have enough.”
If Bobridge was disappointed to relinquish the rainbow stripes he wasn’t showing it rather he was brimming with pride over his friend’s achievement.
“Seeing such a great mate taking it off my back you know, being with ‘Heppy’, he’s like a brother to me so it’s as good as me winning it myself in front of a home crowd,” Bobridge explained. “I left everything out there today but I got beaten by the better guy on the day. It was well deserved.
Their friendship didn’t stop them from playing mental games leading into the event.
“The chitter chatter started before the qualifying and it continued right up until the final,” laughed Bobridge about their ‘trash talking’ duel. “But unfortunately he gets the bragging rights for the next year, so I’ll have to put up with him giving me stick for the next year.
“We go three-all now. We’re even with gold medals in senior titles, two team pursuits and one gold medal each so now it’s a drag race to see who can get the next one,” said Bobridge.
Australia’s third starter in the event, Rohan Dennis, had set the third best time in qualifying, clocking 4:16.051, to set up a bronze medal showdown with New Zealand’s Westley Gough (4:17.001) and a chance of a clean-sweep of the podium for the home team. Gough started stronger and led at the quarter distance mark before Dennis hit his straps and the lead after eight laps. With one kilometre to go Dennis seemed on track to win but as Gough fought back Dennis’ lost his grip on the bronze medal to finish 1.6 seconds after Gough for fourth place.
Men’s Points Race
Australia’s third win of the night had the entire stadium on their feet as the two time world champion Cameron Meyer fought to regain the title he relinquished last year.
It was Meyer against the rest of the world with his rivals marking his every move for almost the entire race. He managed to snaffle a few minor placings in six of the 16 sprints contested during the 40 kilometre, 160 lap event but Britain’s Ben Swift, Belgian Kenny De Ketele and Spain’s Unai Elorriaga Zubiaur sprinted their way to the top three placings and countered Meyer’s repeated attempts to break clear in a bid to grab the 20 points on offer for lapping the field.
“Oh, I definitely gave myself a heart attack out there, it was one of the most nervous bike races I’ve ever done I knew it was going to go something like that before the start,” he explained. “I knew I’d probably go in as one of the favourites and I’d get followed a lot and it was quite frustrating out there at times. But I never gave in.
“I had to do a lot of the work and whenever I went I’d always have a few followers with me, but I know in a points race the ‘lacky’ (elastic) band will always snap at some point and I just had to back myself that I had the strongest legs and that I could snap that ‘lacky’ band at the end.”
As it turned out ‘at the end’ was a spot-on prediction with Meyer’s eleventh hour attack launched with 20 laps to go. Kiwi cyclist Aaron Gate jumped aboard with a ‘Mexican wave’ of sound roaring around the track beside the pair as they worked together to gain the lap.
“He (Gate) helped me a lot out there and I used him just to recover enough and you could see that with five laps to go he’s just given me enough recovery to put in two big laps and put in that bridge to the peloton and take the lap,” said Meyer.
“I snapped it (the elastic) right towards the end with a few laps to go,” he said grinning. “I just like to make it good for the crowd.
But Meyer wasn’t sure whether his dramatic lap gain was enough to give him the win.
“I didn’t know where I’d finished when I came over the line I had to wait until it came up on the board,” he said of the wait to see his points total of 33 appear at the top of the leader board. ” It’s a one point win, but one is enough.
“There’s just no way to describe the feelings that I have right now.”
Meyer has contested six points races at world championship level and described tonight’s as ‘probably the most special’.
“I was never going to give in on my home turf. It’s one of the pinnacles of my bike career so far,” said the 24 year old who along with Leigh Howard will tomorrow ride in defence of the Madison title they have won for the past two years. “I’m going to be just as motivated to win tomorrow, it’s the third one and I’m sure Leigh’s (Howard) very excited about that race and I’d love to win another race in front of the home crowd.”
The silver medal went to Swift (32 points) while Belgium’s De Ketele hung on for third place (28 points)
In the women’s omnium Annette Edmondson was pipped for gold by Britain’s Laura Trott.
20 year old Edmondson had started the day tied with Trott on eleven points after three of the six races that make up the medal event. Trott edged one point ahead after the pursuit round and finished one place ahead of Edmondson again in the scratch race. The pair went head to head in the 500 metre time trial decider where Trott again pipped Edmondson by one place to finish with a final points tally of 28, three better than the Australian. American Sarah Hammer was five points further back to claim the bronze medal.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want those rainbows,” said Edmondson after racing in only her second international class omnium event. “(But) to come away from my first World Championships with two silver medals (other was team pursuit) is really, really encouraging for me especially given it’s an Olympic year.”
She also placed second in her World Cup omnium debut in London in February and hopes the next time she races in London will be for Olympic gold.
“That’s definitely the target. I’ve done a lot of PB’s (personal bests) today and yesterday in my timed events so I know that I’m on the right track,” said Edmondson whose only slip came in the elimination race where she was four places lower than Trott. “I’ve got a bit of experience to gain in the bunch races. I made a bit of a mistake in the elimination but I think it’s all promising and with a bit more work I think a gold at the Olympics is realistic.”
The final event of the night was the men’s sprint which was won by Frenchman Gregory Bauge. He was the fastest qualifier here and began today’s campaign for gold by defeating Australian team sprint gold medal winner Shane Perkins in their semi-final bout.
He beat Perkins in two straight heats while in the second semi final Britons Sir Chris Hoy and Jason Kenny went head to head in what many suggested was an Olympic selection trial to determine who would nab the sprint start for TeamGB in London in August.
Kenny won the first heat from the front holding off Hoy’s charge and in the second came around the Scotsman to pip him on the line.
That put Perkins, 25, in a bronze medal match up with 36 year old Hoy whose experience and pace proved too much for the hometown favourite who went down in two straight heats to finish the sprint in fourth place.
In the gold medal showdown Bauge took the first heat and the early lead before Kenny fought back in the second to level the score. However officials reviewed the race and ruled Kenny had breached the rules by riding out of the sprint lane in the final 200 metres. They relegated him to second which gave Bauge the heat and the gold medal.
It’s the third sprint crown for the French sprinter who also won in 2009 and 2010. He had also been crowned champion last year but was later stripped of the individual sprint and the team sprint crown he won with France due to a backdated suspension for failure to comply with whereabouts rules for doping controls and for missing a test.
Four gold medals are up for grabs on Sunday’s final day of racing. Anna Meares and Kaarle McCulloch will contest the 500 metre time trial with Meares hoping to reclaim the crown she first wore in 2004 which was also the year she won Olympic gold in the same event. Ashlee Ankudinoff and Amy Cure will contest the women’s 3000m individual pursuit. Cameron Meyer and Leigh Howard are hoping to add a third straight Madison title to their collection and sprinters Shane Perkins, Matthew Glaetzer and Scott Sunderland will line up in the men’s keirin.
2012 UCI Track World Championships – Cyclones Australian team list and medal summary
Men’s Team Sprint* – Shane Perkins, Scott Sunderland, Matthew Glaetzer
Men’s Omnium* – Glenn O’Shea
Women’s Keirin* – Anna Meares
Men’s Individual Pursuit – Michael Hepburn
Men’s Points Race – Cameron Meyer
Women’s Team Sprint* – Anna Meares, Kaarle McCulloch
Men’s Team Pursuit* – Jack Bobridge, Michael Hepburn, Glenn O’Shea, Rohan Dennis
Women’s Team Pursuit* – Josephine Tomic, Melissa Hoskins, Annette Edmondson
Women’s Omnium* – Annette Edmondson
Women’s Scratch Race – Melissa Hoskins
Men’s Individual Pursuit – Jack Bobridge
Women’s Sprint* – Anna Meares
* Events on the Olympic Games program