Part Three of our build up to the London World Cup looks at the prospects for the Australian squad – especially in the light of a few reasonable performances in their recent National Track Championships…
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Like tomorrow’s featured nation New Zealand, we have some extra information on which to assess the Australian challenge at the London World Cup – which is just as well because, other than the first round in Astana they weren’t well represented in the earlier rounds of the Series. Fortunately, their track championships took place at the end of January and threw a spotlight on the in-form riders.
The individual events – for reasons we’ll come to in a minute – are the most reliable guide to form and with fastest man in history Luke Durbridge not competing due to a lighter schedule post-Tour down Under and Jack Bobridge (who isn’t coming to London) recovering from a hand injury – which didn’t stop him winning the Points Race. there were no real shocks in the Men’s Individual Pursuit. Michael Hepburn – Bronze medlist in Apeldoorn last year – took the gold in a solid 4:17.481 ahead of Rohan Dennis. Mitchell Mulhern took the Bronze – to add to a Silver at the World Cup in Beijing over the winter. Glenn O’Shea – who won the Astana round of the World Cup – also makes the trip to London.
Of the top 4 in the Women’s Individual Pursuit, only Silver Medalist Ashlee Ankudinoff isn’t in the squad for London. Gold medalist Annette Edmondson – who broke the Australian record twice in the Adelaide Super-Drome – set a best of 3:30.078 – some way off Sarah Hammer’s World record of 3:22.269, but three seconds inside last year’s World Championship winning time. Josephine Tomic was third and Melissa Hoskins fourth.
Anna Meares continues to dominate the Australian Sprint scene – the seven times World Champion taking the Kerin final and the Sprint title – beating long-time Team Sprint partner Kaarle McCulloch in the Sprint Final having qualified fastest with an 11.133 – with McCulloch also taking second in the Keirin. It had been a quiet winter for Meares – with only a Silver in the Sprint and Team Sprint Gold with McCulloch in Astana.
In the Men’s Sprint competition it was rising star Michael Glaetzer who topped qualifying on a 10.100 with Shane Perkins back in third, just ahead of Alex Bird. Scott Sunderland qualified 6th but he still clocked 10.292. Sunderland couldn’t quite make the medal rides, but Bird did – facing Glaetzer in the Final, which he won in two fast paced matches – with Glaetzer getting some consolation from Gold in the Keirin. Perkins took the Sprint Bronze. There might be the basis for a decent Team Sprint squad in there somewhere…
Which brings us on to the team events and in Australia – unlike many other countries – the National Championships are contested by teams from each of the States, which means that often the stars of the National team are prevented from riding with each other. That’s the case in the Team Sprint where Meares and McCulloch still both made the Final, but started on opposite sides of the track. For the record, it was Meares and Rikki Belder who took the win, but neither Belder nor McCulloch’s partner Cassandra Kell makes the National squad.
The Men’s Team Sprint competition saw three of the top individual riders in top four teams – but in three different teams. Glaetzer went one better than his individual Sprint performance, adding a second Gold to his medal haul with Nathan Corrigan and James Glasspool who, like Belder and Kell will be watching the World Cup on TV…
As luck – or State organizational expertise – would have it, the Men’s Team Pursuit did give us a clue as to how the National squad might perform. Three of the winning squad – Rohan Dennis, Alexander Edmondson and Glenn O’Shea will be in London – although fourth man Jack Bobridge won’t. The South Australian quartet set a reasonable pace in the qualifiers, clocking 4:02.567 to book a place in the Final against the Queensland team of Michael Hepburn, Mitchell Mulhern, Jessee Kerrison and Nicholas Schultz. Hepburn also travels to London and, worryingly for the rest of the World, Kerrison and Schultz are still Under 19s.
In the Final the South Australia team showed us what we have to look forward to in London – starting with the qualifiers on Thursday evening – with a blistering new Australian national record of 3:56.834. True, they won’t have Bobridge in London – but there’s a rider in the thrid placed Western Australian squad that should do a passable job as a replacement – World Individual Pursuit World Record holder Luke Durbridge…
In the Women’s Team Pursuit it was Western Australian trio Melissa Hoskins, Sarah Kent and Josephine Tomic who took the Gold, catching the team from the Australian Capital Territory in the Final but going on to set a time of 3:21.618.
The Australians have dominated the Medals table at the World Championships – and at those rounds of the World Cup that they’ve chosen to send a strong squad to – since Pruskow in 2009, and the signs are that they’re not finished yet.