In one of the most mesmerising and heart-breaking finals seen at a World Championships, the USA staged an amazing final lap comeback to stun the crowd and the Australian team.
With just one lap remaining in the enthralling 16-lap final, 2015 world champions Ashlee Ankudinoff (NSW) and Amy Cure (TAS), plus reigning individual pursuit world champion Rebecca Wiasak (ACT) and debutant Alexandra Manly (SA) were perfectly poised for an epic victory.
Holding a lead of almost half a second, a packed Hong Kong velodrome was left speechless as Chloe Dygert emphatically drove the Americans home across the final lap to steal the victory from the hands of the Australians.
Despite the near-miss, team veteran Ankudinoff – who with Cure now boasts four career team pursuit world championship medals – was proud of the team’s fighting effort across the two-day event.
“I’m over the moon, it is a pretty special moment to win silver,” said Ankudinoff, 26. “I was confident we could produce something special here, but we were just beaten by a better team on the day.”
The result was a superb sign for the new-look women’s endurance program lead by Gary Sutton after a tough 2016 campaign which saw the team finish fifth at the worlds and crash out of contention in Rio following a training accident.
With two of the program’s stalwarts in Annette Edmondson and Mel Hoskins not returning to the program in 2017, Sydney’s Ankudinoff knows just how significant today’s result is for the team.
“We knew we had been putting in some consistent training back in Adelaide and I was lining up with three other girls who had done everything they could in the lead up to this,” said Ankudinoff.
“Bec has stepped up and is now a powerhouse in the team full credit to her, Alex Manly has really stepped up at her first world champs. I am really looking forward to the next four years with these ladies.”
Second fastest qualifiers on Wednesday (4:18.659), Australia clocked a superbly measured 4mins 20.041secs on their way to defeating Canada in the first round on Thursday afternoon.
In the final, reigning world champions and fastest qualifiers USA showed their class by establishing a commanding one second after two kilometres.
A see-sawing final two kilometres began with the team trading leads for four laps, before Australia took what looked like a rainbow winning lead of half a second lead with just 250 metres remaining. However it was not to be with the USA ahead on the final time check of the day (4:19.413) by just .4 of a second (4:19.830).
“It was really close out there, yes it was disappointing to not get the gold medal at the end, but I am really proud of all the girls in how they backed up to come out and do a time like that,” said Cure, 24.
“We haven’t ridden times that fast in a while now.
“Only Ash and I have been in this situation before, so for Bec and Alex and the young ones coming through in Australia, it is good for our future that we can produce results like this.
“It is a great step in the right direction after the disappointment of missing out at the 2016 world championships and in Rio.”
Wiasak will now turn her attentions to the individual pursuit where she is the dual reigning world champion, as will Ankudinoff.
Cure’s busy schedule will continue with the points, omnium and Madison – the latter in which she will team with Manly as the event makes its world championship debut.