The Great Britain Cycling Team were named as the world cup round winners as they got their 2019/20 UCI Track Cycling World Cup season off to a solid start in Minsk, Belarus, over the weekend. The team returned home with two gold medals, two silver and one bronze in an event which saw a successful debut outing of the Olympic track bike.
Mark Stewart started the medal winning proceedings on the Friday, winning gold in the points race, followed closely by the team sprint trio of Ryan Owens, Jack Carlin and Jason Kenny claiming the silver medal. The Dutch national team were the overall winner, with the Dutch trade team Beat Cycling Club completing the podium in the bronze medal position.
Earlier in the day, both the men’s and the women’s team pursuit quartets narrowly missed out on medal rides, while European champion Emily Nelson finished fourth in the scratch race.
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Speaking after his points race victory, Mark Stewart said: “That was a nice surprise really, we came into today with the team pursuit being the main objective. I was up this morning at 8am on the rollers with a focus on the team pursuit so it’s a nice surprise when you can follow it up with another result.”
In Saturday’s racing, Matt Walls was the GBCT representative in the men’s omnium. This Olympic event has adopted a new format this season with all four events taking place in the space of just one session meaning the riders have to reconsider their preparations for each race. Walls showed his intentions early by gaining a lap to win the first race of the omnium, the scratch race. From there, he placed second in both the tempo and elimination races which put him in first position going into the deciding points race. Walls enjoyed a comfortable start to the race, covering any potentially dangerous moves to stay in the lead. However, with just under 30 laps to go, Portuguese rival Rui Oliveira gained a lap which propelled him to the top of the leader board. Walls battled back to also gain a lap with eleven laps to go to put him back on top. With an 11-point lead after the penultimate sprint, Walls just needed to avoid any trouble to win the gold medal, which he successfully achieved. The current Olympic champion Elia Viviani finished in second place behind Matt, with Oliveira finishing in third.
After collecting his medal, Walls said: “I was feeling good this morning coming into the race, I had the team pursuit yesterday and qualifying the day before and I was going better than expected there. I went out and had a little pedal this morning and I was feeling good so I was looking forward to it. Once I got into the races, I calmed down a bit and got into the zone. In the points race, when Rui got the lap, I was a bit like ‘this is isn’t great’ but I thought I’d try not to panic and I’d react by seeing what happened and doing what I could. In the end, I followed Lasse (Norman Hansen) and managed to get the lap along with Viviani as well.”
Laura Kenny and Emily Nelson also enjoyed podium success in the Madison when they finished six points behind the world champion Dutch riders Kirsten Wild and Amy Pieters to take the silver medal.
The women’s sprint qualifying saw Sophie Capewell deliver a big PB in qualifying and she made it through to the 1/8 finals where she came up against team mate Katy Marchant. The 2016 bronze Olympic bronze medallist Marchant was victorious in that round, but left the competition after the quarter finals, narrowly losing to the American rider Mandy Marquardt.
In the men’s keirin, Jack Carlin took a straight forward route to the finals, avoiding the repechage round along the way. To be expected, the final was stacked full of the world’s best keirin riders, including the reigning world champion Matthijs Buchli and the reigning European champion Harrie Lavreysen. Carlin gave it his all to finish in fourth place, with Lavreysen taking the win. Joe Truman did not start in the keirin due to a back injury and has now returned home to focus on coming back strong for the Glasgow round of the world cup.
Senior academy rider Ethan Vernon had a memorable day out in his world cup debut by getting the opportunity to race on the Olympic track back in its first outing at a competition. Vernon qualified in third place to progress to the finals where he put in a valiant attempt to finish in 11th place overall.
On the final day of racing, Laura Kenny was back in action in the new format omnium. With five laps to go in the scratch race, Kenny led the charge to the finish but was pipped on the line by American Jennifer Valente. Following the tempo race, Kenny dropped to fourth in the overall standings but she bounced back to win the elimination race, bringing her up to third place going in to the points race finale. The race remained fairly uneventful for the top placed riders, with Kenny finishing the race with a bronze medal. Valente took gold, and Italy’s Letizia Paternoster won silver.
Reflecting back on all three of her races, Kenny said: “The team pursuit was obviously good, we were here with a completely different team with some younger riders. It was the first time I’d rode with Josie Knight, she was absolutely fantastic, for a senior academy rider to step up and to PB by about five seconds I think it was, was incredible. People think you only have to get around, but you don’t, it’s a team effort. And for Meg to step up as well – we haven’t had a Person One for the last couple of years. Moving Katie (Archibald) into Person Four helps the distance but it means we haven’t had a person to go in one, and so for Meg to start like that – we just can’t fault the team performance I don’t think.
“The Madison yesterday was one of them! We were to-ing and fro-ing, and to-ing and fro-ing and if we’d just stayed in the front of the race for just two more sprints I think we probably would have taken the win but you’ve got to be pleased to come away with another medal at a world cup. And (Emily) Nelson rode fantastically considering she said she didn’t think she had the legs!
“The omnium – well I’m always disappointed not to win. It’s just the tempo race – every time. It’s one of them though, once it clicks…this has happened to me before – I never knew how to ride an elimination race and once it clicked, it just clicked and then I get it…but it just hasn’t clicked yet! But again, I’ve got another world cup medal with a result of 12th in the tempo, so once I learn that I do feel positive about it, and I do feel positive about the weekend as well.”
In a gruelling men’s Madison, the pairing of Mark Stewart and Matt Walls stayed in the top part of the leaderboard throughout, dipping in and out of the medal places, but eventually finished in fifth place as the European champions Lassse Norman Hansen and Michael Morkov from Denmark won the race.
In the men’s sprint, Jason Kenny and Jack Carlin comfortably made it through to the quarter finals where they met with the current world champion (Harrie Lavreysen) and European champion (Jeffrey Hoogland) respectively. Jason and Jack pushed their Dutch competitors to the line, but it wasn’t to be on this occasion and they both left the competition at this point.
Katy Marchant made it through the repechage to make the second round of the keirin, but a fourth-place finish put her into the minor final where she finished in 11th place overall. Sophie Capewell was also racing in the keirin and left in the repechage stage.
It was Kian Emadi’s turn to race on the new Olympic bike, taking to the start-line in his first ever individual pursuit at world cup level. Emadi, who qualified 11th fastest, reported that the bike ‘felt smooth.’ Brit John Archibald won the silver medal riding for HUUB Wattbike Test Team, while the Italian rider Filippo Ganna set a new world record of 4:04.252 in qualifying and shattered it in his final ride, posting 4:02.647 to set the standing world record and to win the gold medal.
The Great Britain Cycling Team now turn their focus to the next round of the UCI Track Cycling World Cup series, taking place in Glasgow this week. Further information is available here, and tickets can be purchased from here.