Ankudinoff executes to precision & Welsford conquers rainbows as seven national champions are crowned on day two of the 2018 Cycling Australia Track National Championships in Brisbane.

Men’s Individual Pursuit 

Western Australia’s Sam Welsford conquered reigning world and national champion Jordan Kerby (QLD), a rowdy Brisbane crowd and the clock, as he stormed to reclaim the individual pursuit crown.

In one of the fastest and most nail-biting men’s pursuit finals ever seen at national championships, Welsford’s 4min 14.189secs backed up his scorching 4:15 qualifying time which was a five second personal best.

“I still can’t believe it,” said a shocked Welsford, a dual world champion and Olympic silver medallist in the team format. “I went into the final against Kerby, the world champion, with nothing to lose as kind of the underdog.

“I just went out there and took the race to him for the whole race, it came down to the last two laps I think. I just had enough to hold on so I’m over the moon.”

Kerby scorched the cooler afternoon qualifying conditions with a time of 4mins 13.154secs, just one second outside of his 2017 World Championship time (4mins 12.172sec) in Hong Kong. In an earlier qualifying ride, Welsford cruised to the final in 4mins 15.886secs.

In the evening’s title fight, the pair kept the packed crowd on its feet as Welsford took the early three-tenths of a second advantage after the first kilometre.

The Perth cyclist maintained the margin through to the halfway mark before Kerby channeled the crowd and the rainbow jersey on his shoulders in the third kilometre to move to less one-tenth of a second of his opponent.

Sensing the challenge, Welsford lifted over the final few laps to put an end to the comeback.

“The home crowd was all behind Kerby, I had to use that energy for myself,” said Welsford. “But I’d picture a bit was for me and it was really loud from both sides because it was so close to the end, so I think the crowd lifted for both of us in the final laps.”

The result was even more remarkable for Welsford considering he last took to the track for an individual pursuit two years ago in Adelaide when he rode the national title.

“I haven’t done much individual pursuiting since then, it’s good to line up and get the win,” added Welsford, who is targeting his maiden Commonwealth Games team selection. ”I kind of just went into this race to see how my IP was going and whether that was a possibility for the Commonwealth Games.

“I’m stoked for where it’s going right now and I think I am headed in the right direction, and if I am selected to the Games, I hope I’ll be able to do something even faster.”

For Kerby, there were no excuses, only praise for his Australian Cycling Team mate.

“You can never, ever underestimate Sam Welsford,” he said. “I’ll tell you what, he’s the most talented track rider of our generation and I knew he was going to come out guns blazing tonight and truth be told he was just too strong and too good for me.

“We were neck and neck for a while there, then the last six laps he just broke me, it’s as simple as that.”

In the all Victorian battle for bronze, nineteen-year-old 2017 World Championship bronze medalistKelland O’Brien (4:19.660) survived a late comeback by Leigh Howard (4:19.987).

Women’s Individual Pursuit

A determined and exact performance saw Ashlee Ankudinoff (NSW) prevail in the race against the clock, with the Sydney cyclist executing her pre-race plan to perfection as she rode to gold in Friday’s final.

“Yeah, it’s been a few years since I won the individual pursuit and every year I come here hungry for it,” said Ankudinoff after claiming her second title in three years and seventh podium appearance since 2010. 

16 women took to the line in the afternoon qualifying session with Ankudinoff (3:32.335) taking narrow bragging rights in the final over her Australian Cycling Team mate Amy Cure(3:32.690).  

With the pair boasting five World Championships medals since 2012, the final promised, and delivered, a world class affair.  The margin between the pair stayed within Ankudinoff tree-tenths of a second for the first two kilometres, with Cure inching back to trail by two-tenths late in the race.

Anticipation loomed for a retort from the Tasmanian reknowed for her strong finishes to the 3000m event, however Ankudinoff closed the gate over the final few laps to win by one second. 

 “I came into this race knowing I should ride my own race,” said Ankudinoff, who stopped the clock in 3mins 31.064secs ahead of Cure (3:31.972), exactly to pre race schedule and plan of racing the clock, not the competitor. “Amy rides a very different race to me and she like to start off slow and then build it up, I watched it in the heat against Nettie (Edmondson) and I’m a different style of rider. 

 “I like to go out do my own thing and just ask for my coach mick to put me on a 31 schedule and I just rode off that. I knew it was very close in the end and I gave it my all in the end. 

 “So to come up with just under a second in the lead was awesome.”

While Ankudinoff chases green and gold jersey this week in Brisbane, she is also chasing a second Australian Commonwealth Games team selection with the depth from the Australian ranks making it a challenging proposition.  

“I think there were 16 odd girls that racing this IP and the quality was so high, you’ve got six girls that can actually go really well at a World Championship so there’s a high calibre amongst us and I think it just pushes us to achieve,” said Ankudinoff, who was relieved the Nationals sat outside the selection period. 

“It was good that this wasn’t a selection race,” she revealed. “All the girls have come here to have fun and to not have that pressure of selection is great.

 “Everyone has been here and there with the road stuff to start the year, so it’s been kind of different start with not really a track focus. So to come here and just have a bit of fun, then we can go home and those selection can just focus on the Games.”

Such is the depth of the Australian women’s endurance program, dual world and defending champion Bec Wiasak (ACT) was forced to the bronze medal ride where she took the win in a time of 3mins 34.616secs over Tasmania’s Georgia Baker (3:40.616).

Wiasak’s ACT team mate Lauren Robards claimed the honours in the under 19 event just a day after winning bronze with the first ever ACT under 19 team pursuit quartet. Robards covered the 3km distance in 2mins 26.707secs to take a strong win over Victoria’s Alice Culling (2:30.012).  Queensland’s Alexandra Martin-Wallace (2:26.565) winning the bronze. 

Queensland’s Blake Quick set the crowd alight with a stirring win the under 19 men’s event. Like his surname suggests, Blake (3:21.272) had the edge over Canberra’s Michael Rice (3:21.611) in the twelve-lap event.

Sprint

The opening rounds of the sprint competition got underway and reigning Commonwealth Games champion Stephanie Morton (SA) wasted no time sounding her intentions when she topped the qualifying session.

Defending champion Morton, who boasts the track record set at the 2017 Nationals, clocked the only sub-eleven second time of the session of 10.809. Dual national champion Kaarle McCulloch (NSW) was second fastest (11.048) withVictoria’s Caitlin Ward (11.240) third.

In the men’s, Matt Glaetzer (SA) continued his electrifying Nationals with the fastest time ever recorded on Australian soil in qualifying with 9.757secs. 

Glaetzer and the top four qualifiers in Jacob Schmid (VIC – 9.887), Nathan Hart (ACT – 9.917) and Thomas Clarke (SA – 9.924) have all progressed Saturday’s finals.

In the upset of the day, reigning champion Pat Constable (SA) was caught off guard by Victorian Tyler Meunier.

The sprint competition goes across two days, with the finals decided on Saturday evening.

The under 19 men’s sprint was decided on Friday evening with Leigh Hoffman (SA) taking the title in an upset over fastest qualifier Thomas Cornish (NSW).

Women’s 500m Time Trial

Kaarle McCulloch (NSW) wound back the clock in Brisbane today surging to a sixth time trial and thirteenth national title in a near personal-best time.

Just days after celebrating her thirtieth birthday, McCulloch laid down her third best ever time – only bettered by her two rides at the 2018 Oceania Championships last November – to win gold in the 500m time trial.

“I wanted that so badly,” said McCulloch, who won five national titles in the event between 2008 and 2013. “To be able to execute as well as what I did, and in the time that I did, I am really excited.

“I am so buggered right now, to go that fast, on this track especially, it really has given me a lot of confidence.”

In the final ride against Stephanie Morton (SA),Australia’s two leading riders staged a close battle across the two laps.

2010 Commonwealth silver medalist McCulloch held the advantage at all time checks, before stopping the clock in 34.064secs, also a new Australian Championship record time.

The Sydney cyclist recently made the permanent move to Adelaide to join Morton at the Australian Cycling Team headquarters. The pair are targeting selection to the team for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in the individual events, in addition to forming the team sprint combination. 

“I was really nervous going up against Steph, I get to train with her every day now and she is mashing me in training everyday,” remarked McCulloch, who won World Championship silver with Morton in 2017. “But I think it is really good for both of us. 

“I am there chasing her, and she is being pushed by me. 

“I feel as a team and as opponents, we will take it to the next level.”

Riding in her first time trial in four years since winning Commonwealth silver in Glasgow in 2014, Morton grabbed the silver in 34.281secs. 

Defending champion Breanna Hargrave (SA) took the bronze in a time of 34.856secs.

In the under 19 women’s time trial, a personal best to Brooklyn Vonderwall (35.727) saw her win gold ahead of Victoria’s Alana Field (35.829) and South Australia’s Heather May (36.813).