Australia powered to its third consecutive team-pursuit crown at the world track cycling championships Saturday in Melbourne, Australia, beating back a spirited challenge from Great Britain.
The Australian combination of Peter Dawson, Ashley Hutchinson, Luke Roberts and Stephen Wooldridge trailed in the mid-stages before pulling away to win the gold-medal final by 1.5 seconds in 4:00.322 seconds. Spain beat the Netherlands in the ride-off for bronze.
The British quartet of Robert Hayles, Paul Manning, Christopher Newton and Bryan Steel laid down a stern challenge. They diced with the gold-medal favorites before the Australians, urged on by their home crowd over the 4000 meters and 16 laps, took over 10 laps from the finish and held on to their advantage, building their lead with every lap.
“Three in a row, unbelievable,” Dawson said. “Doing it in front of a home crowd was great.”
It was Australia’s first gold medal at the Melbourne championships and made the country the first in 25 years to win the title in three straight years; clearly, the Aussies are the favorites for the Athens Olympics in August.
“I’ve now got a great group to pick from for the Athens Games, a couple of the boys cemented their places today,” Australian coach Martin Barras said. “I am confident with the people I will be taking to Athens. If they do their business they will be a real chance in Athens.”
Dawson held his bike above his head in jubilation before a mass of photographers afterwards, to the delight of the roaring, capacity crowd. He and Roberts were the only riders to have been in all three winning combinations.
British coach Simon Jones said: “We have Brad Wiggins to come back but they still have some of their (Australia’s) best to come back as well. Definitely, a world record will be required in Athens to win the gold medal.”
Australia shattered the world record last year by winning the world team-pursuit title in Stuttgart, Germany, in 3:57.280.
“Given the right conditions I certainly believe they can match last year’s Stuttgart time. These guys gave a fantastic effort but they’re still not quite there,” Barras said.
Russia picked up two gold medals in Saturday’s finals with Olga Slusareva claiming her fourth consecutive women’s 25km points race and Svetlana Grankovskaya fighting off Australian Anna Meares to claim her third sprint crown 2-1.
Slusareva was supreme as she accumulated 39 points throughout the 100-lap race to beat Italy’s Vera Carrara (31) and Belem Guerro Mendez of Mexico (30).
Slusareva won three of the 10 sprints and picked up 20 bonus lap points along with Carrara and Guerrero Mendez.
“Yesterday I was disappointed not to win the individual pursuit, so today I was determined to try as hard as I could. I’m very happy to have won,” Slusareva said.
New individual pursuit world champion Sarah Ulmer of New Zealand finished fourth with 12 points, winning two sprints.
Grankovskaya had a tremendous struggle with Meares in their best-of-three final, winning the first race, but being forced into a decider by the determined Australian, inspired by her home crowd.
But the Russian was too strong in the deciding race, following up her wins in 2001 and last year.
“I trained hard for this, so I was very motivated and very driven to do well,” Grankovskaya said.
Meares was gallant in defeat. “I was beaten by a better rider. I gave my all, and in the end I had nothing left to give. I believe in my ability in what I can do and I am feeling confident for the Olympic Games.”