Australia charged to a sixth team pursuit world crown in eight years with an emphatic win over trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand in the final in Hong Kong.
There was no shortage of rainbow experience on the final start line for Australia with 2010 world champion Cameron Meyer (WA) and defending champions Sam Welsford (WA) and Alex Porter (SA) teaming with debutant Nick Yallouris (NSW).
It was a workman like start by the quartet which built a handy one-second lead over the first two kilometres, before New Zealand rallied to take a narrow two-tenths of a second lead with one kilometre remaining.
However with their new Santini green and gold bands radiating under the LEDs, the Australians (3:53.979) surged over the final four laps to win by two and a half seconds (NZL 3:51.503).
The win gave Cameron Meyer – already Australia’s most decorated track cyclists – his seventh world crown and second in the team pursuit after winning the title in 2010.
“It’s been a long time between drinks I guess you could say,” said Meyer, who spent time away form the track program as he forged his road career. “The feeling is still the same, it’s unbelievable to win a world title and I couldn’t have started the championships any better and I’m ecstatic for the rest of the guys.”
With a men’s track endurance squad crank-deep in talent, coach Tim Decker was able to play all his cards across the three rounds with mind-blowing results.
In Thursday’s opening qualifying round, Meyer, Welsford and Porter soared with eighteen-year-old debutant Kelland O’Brien to the third fastest time in history (3.50.577) just .312 outside of Great Britain’s world record set at Rio 2016 Games. Their ride was on target to be the first sub-3-50 mark, however with the team catching their opponent with two laps to go, time was lost as they passed the British team.
In the first round against France, debutant Rohan Wight (SA) lifted to post a personal best time for the team event as the outfit booked its place in the gold medal ride with a considered time of 3mins 54.125secs.
“I think we got everything we wanted out of it, three really consistent, solid rides, and we used six riders,” said Meyer, 29, of his younger squad-mates which featured three debutants including one teenager in O’Brien.
“So the experience we got, some might have only done one round, but they did it at world class times and under enormous pressure.
“The ultimate goal we kept talking about was the win, we wanted the world title first and if the record comes that’s a bonus.
“To ride a 51 and win the world title is what we wanted to do.”
With the team pursuit ticked on the checklist, Meyer will now look to his remaining events – the points race and Madison – in which he boasts five world title.
“I’m in a different space to even back when I was winning world titles six or seven years ago, I’m confident in my legs and tonight gave me more confidence that I can compete for world titles still,” Meyer added.
“I know I will go in as one of the favourites for the points race (on Friday) and madison (on Sunday), I’m not scared of it, I’ve been there before and I know I can do it again.”
Returning world champion Welsford, 21, was ecstatic with the team’s execution across the two days.
“It feels pretty incredible, to go back to back is insane and we executed the plan perfectly, we all did our jobs and it worked out perfectly,” Welsford said. “We were bloody close to that world record, and we executed good rides in all three rides and we’re very excited to take the bands again.”
With just two riders from the 2016 world champion outfit and Rio 2016 silver medalists taking part in the team pursuit victory in Hong Kong, the squad has good reason to be buoyed by the result ahead of another Olympic campaign towards Tokyo 2020.
“It’s great signs (for Australia), we have such depth in our training squad, there are two possibly who are not even here who are away on road priorities, so over the next couple of years you’ll see faster times from us,” said Welsford of riders such as Scotson brothers Callum and Miles.
One of the team’s newcomers in Sydney’s Nick Yallouris, 23, was left for words after walking away from his first world championship ride with a rainbow jersey on his shoulders.
“Words can’t describe what I’m feeling right now, massive thanks to the guys and Tim Decker especially for believing in my ability and trusting I would deliver in the final, I’m ecstatic,” said Yallouris, a dual national champion who moved into the CA HPU ranks last November.
“I’d by lying if I said I wasn’t nervous, but the past six months I’ve put in a lot of work and had to back myself and the team’s ability and trust the process, and we did it.”