Australia’s men snatched gold in the team sprint at the UCI Track World Championships at Melbourne’s Hisense Arena on an opening night that saw world records toppled in the men’s team pursuit and women’s team sprint.
If the trio of Victorian Shane Perkins, 25, West Australian Scott Sunderland, 24, and South Australian Matthew Glaetzer, 19, had been outside on Olympic Boulevard their 62.4 kilometre per hour average pace would have earned them a speeding fine but on the track it produced a time of 43.266 seconds and earned a gold medal over Gregory Bauge, Kevin Sireau and Michael D’Almeida of France who were a miniscule thousandth of a second slower in 43.267.
“Absolutely unbelievable!” said Sunderland who rode second wheel in the three man, three lap race over 750 metres. “Words can’t really describe how good it feels. We came in here with three really strong riders and to do what we did tonight is what we dream of and what we train hard for…. and in front of a home crowd is the icing on the cake.”
The team had qualified third fastest behind top seeds France (43.247) and Germany (43.349) to set up a showdown with fourth fastest Great Britain (43.533) for bronze. However both the Brits and the Germans (along with the USA and Greece) were disqualified for a breach of the event rules and that moved the Australians into the gold medal final.
“We came here wanting to do a personal-best time, we did that in the qualifying (43.512),” said Perkins. “Then obviously we heard we were in the gold ride-off, our energy and excitement went up another level.
“We knew we had the ability, we knew we had to bring our times down and we did that.”
Perkins led the team out of the gate with French starter Bauge marginally quicker over the first lap before Sunderland nailed his lap outpacing Michael D’Almeida to move the home team into the lead. He then swung up to make way for the team’s teenage anchor-man Glaetzer who, up against 200 metre world record holder Kevin Sireau, clocked the fastest third lap of any rider this year to seal the win. The time eclipsed the Australian record set by the trio in November at the Kazakhstan round of the World Cup (43.589) and betters the all-comers record set by Britain’s Jason Kenny, Matthew Crampton and Chris Hoy (43.829) at the Melbournne Commonwealth Games.
“We knew we had some improvements to make from qualifying and (it is) handy to know that you can lift in the final,” said Sunderland. “We did that and made it as smooth as possible. Everyone doing their job in the team was what we needed to happen and in the end we set an Australian record and claimed a world title.
“That’s what you do the big training for, the thousandth of a second and everyone did their part and in the end we’re world champions,” said Sunderland of the slim winning margin.
Glaetzer, who was the 2010 junior world champion in the sprint and keirin, was thrilled to finish off the team effort.
“It’s all about the team, there’s no individual rides in there,” said Glaetzer. “For Shane to do a blinder of a lap and Scotty to pull me through as strong and as fast as he did, it’s just a perfect set up for me. I had the easy job to sit on and then just bury myself and hang on to the end and the crowd got behind us, I mean it’s a huge lift to hear that ambient roar in the background as you’re coming up to the finish line. It’s just an incredible feeling.”
Glaetzer says the home crowd roar certainly spurred him on.
“The Aussies go ballistic no matter what position you’re in (but) at the end the last half lap, they just erupted and I knew that we were in for a shot and just buried myself even harder. The crowd is amazing.
“This is what we dedicate our lives for and for it to pay off at the highest level and get the highest result is just phenomenal.”
Australia last won the men’s team sprint world title in 1996 and were retrospectively awarded bronze in last year’s event after France was relegated for a doping violation.
“We know we have to go faster leading up to the Olympics … to come away with a win after it being a work in progress is absolutely fantastic,” said Perkins.
Cycling Australia Sprint Head Coach, Gary West, was overjoyed with the result.
“I just can’t really put in in words at the moment what we’re experiencing,” said West who during the day moved from rider to rider dispensing motivation, advice and encouragement as they prepared for competition. “We spoke all day today about team, about being a team, about playing our part and playing our role. I threw a couple of challenges out, one to be the best they could be in their respective positions, and two to ride faster than any Australian team and on both occasions they did it and I’m just so pleased with the guys.
“In true Aussie fashion they got a sniff, got an opportunity and nailed it,” said West of their elevation to the gold medal ride. “Maybe it was meant to be, I don’t know, but I do know these kids work incredibly hard. We have an incredible support team around us from mechanics, to soigneurs, to managers, to other coaches and sports scientists, they do a wonderful job and it came together tonight.”
Earlier the women’s team sprint gold was won by Germany’s Miriam Welte and Kristina Vogel who defeated Australia’s three time and defending world champions Anna Meares and Kaarle McCulloch. Both teams set a blistering pace.
The German duo had qualified fastest over the two laps (500m) in 32.630, clipping a little over a tenth of a second off the world record set by Great Britain’s Victoria Pendleton and Jessica Varnish in London in February. The Australian pair also lowered that mark with the second fastest qualifying time of 32.752.
But the ink in the record books had no time to dry as both teams upped their pace in the final where the German duo shaved almost a tenth of a second off the record to win gold in 32.549. Meares and McCulloch came agonisingly close to a fourth straight title with their time of 32.597 but had to settle for silver. In the bronze medal ride China’s Jinjie Gong and Shuang Guo defeated Pendleton and Varnish.
“That’s just bike racing for you,” said McCulloch. “We lost probably by a tyre (width) tonight, but that’s racing. I’m so happy to come here and ride under the current world record, but to come second to the Germans in a world record, we can’t ask for anything more.
“It’s nice to come here after the London World Cup where we didn’t have anybody on our side,” said McCulloch of racing in front of a home crowd. “Tonight I got that extra, just from the crowd and all my families in the back straight, and down in the home straight. And what a fantastic opportunity for us, I’m just so grateful.”
“We rode outside of our skins tonight and we performed as a team and really got beaten by the better team tonight and we’re really proud of the Germans girls,” said Meares. “They have been working very hard and you can see their progression over the years as well, which is good to see.”
“We got beaten by a better team, by the Germans who surprised us a little tonight, but I’m just super proud of the girls,” said West. “The same challenge went out to them, to be the best they could be and ride faster than they ever had. On both occasions they rode faster and on both occasions they would have broken the previous world record but each time they were nailed by a better outfit on the night.”
Both McCulloch and Meares will line up tomorrow in the individual sprint in which Meares is the defending world champion while the men have a day off competition.
In the much anticipated men’s 4000 metre team pursuit battle it took a world record ride by Great Britain to dethrone the Australians who were trying for a hat trick of titles. The British quartet of Ed Clancy, Peter Kennaugh, Geraint Thomas and Steven Burke, who replaced qualifying round starter Andrew Tennant, stopped the clock in 3.53.295 to hold off a late charge by the Australian foursome of Jack Bobridge, Michael Hepburn, Rohan Dennis and world championship debutant Glenn O’Shea. The Australian time of 3.53.401 was just a tenth of a second slower.
The winning time lowered the mark of 3:53.314 set by the Brits to win the Olympic Games gold medal in Beijing and both teams predict it will take another world record ride to secure Olympic Games gold in August. New Zealand posted a time of 3:57.592secs to beat Russia (3:59.237secs) and claim the bronze medal.
“Obviously it’s pretty disappointing, we went over there (London World Cup), we got one up on their home soil, and they’ve come here and kicked us back in the guts and beat us here,” said Bobridge.
“We would of liked it the other way around maybe but we didn’t get beaten by a bad time at all, we rode our personal best and they rode the world record,” said Bobridge. “We got beaten by the better team on the day (and) that’s just the way it is. You can’t complain when you get beaten by someone who breaks a world record.
“They looked awesome in qualifying, they rode an awesome final and we just couldn’t beat them today,” said Bobridge when asked if there was something the Australians could have done better. “We’ve been able to beat them the last two years and they’ve come out today and kicked us in the guts and we have to take that and use it as energy and really strive to come back and give them a kick in the guts in London.
“It will be best of three, like I said we got one on them and they got one here, the next win will be Olympic champions so hopefully we can turn the cards around come the Olympics.”
Hepburn agrees with his team mates assessment of the night.
“There wasn’t a whole lot we could have done and hat’s off to the British team, they’ve picked up a lot in the past month and they deserve the victory,” Hepburn said. “They’ve got a lot quicker but at the same time there are some positives we can take out of this. Our number one goal is for the Olympics and irrespective of the time that’s still the fastest time we’ve done together, so there are some positives.
“It’s always hard losing and this crowd’s been great to us but the British boys were better than us tonight,” he said. “What we’re going to do now is lift again. We’ve really got to step up now, we knew it was going to be fast, we knew it was going to take a world record to win and we just got beaten in those last few laps.”
In the other final contested on day one South Australian Alex Edmondson was 16th in the 15 kilometre (60 lap) men’s scratch race won by Britain’s Ben Swift ahead of South African Nolan Hoffman with Dutch rider Wim Stroetinga third.