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Kiwi Campbell Stewart wins the omnium at the world track cycling champs
Stewart, 20, rode a tactically brilliant points race to take the win and claim the Omnium gold medal at the UCI Track World Championships in Poland on Sunday morning (NZT).
Stewart, a rising star who caught the attention of New Zealand’s sporting public with silver medals in the scratch and points races at last year’s Commonwealth Games, put in a courageous ride after he spent four days off his bike last week when he was one of several New Zealand riders struck down with illness.
He rode the first race of the team pursuit but withdrew from the rest of the campaign, barely able to get on his bike let alone be competitive at the elite level.
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“It was basically four days of sitting in a hotel and not being able to get much food down,” Stewart told Stuff.
For that reason, Stewart was not sure what to expect heading into the points race – the final leg of the Omnium.
“I wasn’t quite sure where the legs were at,” he said.
But when he got to the halfway point, Stewart was feeling strong with plenty left in the tank.
“So I started picking off a few sprints and slowly started getting into it,” he said.
Stewart, who was among the points early, rode bravely to drive in the dagger with 20 laps to go.
It was there Stewart shot to the lead, being part of a three-rider break away, winning the sprint, then lapped the field to pick up a bonus 20 points to shoot clear at the top.
Stewart did not feature in the penultimate sprint, but he had accumulated so many points he was all but certain to win, but he was prominent in the leadup to the final sprint, which carried double points.
Akin to the decathlon in athletics, the Omnium is made up of a scratch race, an elimination race, a tempo race with the points race the final event.
The winner is the rider who has obtained the highest points total.
Stewart’s gold medal was a reward for his consistency after he finished third in the scratch race, fourth in the tempo race and fifth in the elimination race.
He accumulated 137 points with Benjamin Thomas of France taking silver on 119, with Englishman Ethan Hayter scoring 118 in third.
“To achieve that one and be able to stand on top of the podium was a dream that’s been going for a fair few years now and to be able to pick it off is unreal,” Stewart told Stuff.
He said a lot of work had gone on in the background to turn his world championship dream into reality.
Stewart was able to share the moment with his proud parents John and Joanne Stewart who were attending their first elite world championships and the freshly crowned world champion said there were a “few tears” when he was able to briefly speak to them.
“Obviously they’ve been on the journey with me for quite a while now so we’ve put plenty of time and effort into it but eventually it’s paid off which is awesome.”
A small group of family members from London were also there to support Stewart.
Stewart revealed post-race it was his plan to stay as close as he could to the front of the race.
“I guess it just pays because you can kind of keep an even amount of work throughout the day.
“At the end, I had to follow a bit and attack and then it just all worked out.”
Stewart will enjoy a few days rest before spending some time overseas training before contesting the Brisbane and Cambridge rounds of the World Cup.
“That’s quite good as we won’t have to do a lot of travel,” Stewart said.
As the last major build up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Stewart and the New Zealand team will contest next year’s UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Germany that begin in February.
“It’s all pretty focussed on the big goal of the Olympics but there’s a few little things along the way where will make sure we’re hitting the targets,” Stewart said.
The emerging Kiwi star is leading the way for young wave race of international riders heading towards next year’s Olympics in Tokyo.
“Obviously these other guys are still pretty young that I’m versing as well so we’re all coming up, we’re all trying hard, training hard and eventually we’re really pushing it,” Stewart said.
New Zealand has endured a disappointing world championship with just two bronze medals before Stewart’s gold.
On Friday (NZT) Thomas Sexton won bronze in the men’s scratch race and the women’s pursuit team combination of Michaela Drummond, Bryony Botha, Holly Edmondston and Kirstie James also won bronze.