Thursday, October 7, 2010

Seven medals but cyclists dissatisfied

New Zealand's performance in the final of the men's 4000m team pursuit overnight (NZT) encapsulated their track cycling campaign at these Commonwealth Games.

It's been full of hope but splintered by the Aussies.

The sight of Jesse Sergent, Westley Gough, Marc Ryan and Sam Bewley scattered to different parts of the track as the tight Australians powered home at near-world record pace was one to behold.

New Zealand have a well funded group boasting both quality and depth - four silver medals and three bronze here attest to that - but ahead of today's final session they are existing in a green and gold shadow.

The other medals overnight were a 10km scratch race silver to Joanne Kiesanowski and a men's sprint bronze to Sam Webster.

Head coach Tim Carswell admitted gold was goal here but wouldn't criticise his riders, who he said had matched or bettered performance expectations.

He believed the Australians should instead be lauded for rebounding from a poor Beijing Olympic campaign which yielded just one medal.

"They're re-establishing themselves as the No 1 nation in the world. That's what we're up against," he said.

"We've got two years (until the London Olympics) to get it right."

Victory is not beyond New Zealand today.

Alison Shanks is a strong chance in the women's individual pursuit while the men's sprint team pack power.

The men's scratch race is the final event and will feature Ryan and Shane Archbold, who both placed fourth in qualifying heats overnight. Aaron Gate narrowly missed out in 13th.

New Zealand's best track cycling haul at a Games is nine medals, including four golds at Auckland in 1990. That mark could yet be matched or bettered.

"A lot of them are in the best form of their lives and we're certainly not unhappy with how we're going," Carswell said.

"I guess there's high standards from the team to be producing gold medals. If we're not doing that then we tend to beat ourselves up a bit."

Sergent, who added to Tuesday's individual pursuit silver, struggled to hide his disappointment.

"No disrespect to a silver medal but we really did want to win tonight and get one over those Australians," he said.

"We want to hear our anthem at least once in here."

His team led through 1000m and were easily inside national record pace at the halfway point.

Bewley dropped off the pace soon afterwards, sparking a disintegration before being lapped.

"It was a bit of a hit or miss I suppose," Sergent said of the tactics to go out hard.

"We blew up but who knows what would have happened if we didn't blow up, maybe we would have got the better of them.

"In the future, maybe we're going to have to start that fast and finish that fast. I think it's just baby steps up until London."

Kiesanowski, 31, stormed home in the wake of Australian Megan Dunn, who added to her points race gold.

Christchurch road specialist Kiesanowski helped instigate a break for teammate Rushlee Buchanan six laps from the end but when that fizzled out, she pounced on the chance to grab a medal in the final sprint.

Her recent focus has been the United States professional road circuit and she held high hopes for next week's road race here.

"But I'm really glad that I've come back to the track in this last year. I've always loved the track, it's what I started out in as a teenager."

Webster, 19, underlined his enormous potential with a 2-0 defeat of teammate Dawkins in the sprint bronze medal showdown.

He pushed eventual Australian winner Shane Perkins close in the semifinals and had too much pep for a sub-par Dawkins in their two races.

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