Cyclones open world's campaign in Minsk with one of each
Day one of the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Belarus signalled the end of an era and the dawning of another as a new look men's pursuit team defeated Great Britain by more than four seconds to claim Australia's first gold in Minsk. The endurance women, Amy Cure and Annette Edmondson, also added to the medal tally taking silver and bronze respectively in the individual pursuit.
The quartet of Glenn O'Shea, 23, Michael Hepburn, 21, Alexander Edmondson, 19, and Alexander Morgan, 18, averaged more than 60km/h to cover the 4000 metres in a time of 3:56.751 to deliver a fitting farewell to coach Ian McKenzie who was walking the line trackside for the Australian pursuit team for the final time.
McKenzie, who is at his thirteenth world championships as men's track endurance coach, will hand over the mantle to Tim Decker next month and move into the supervisory role of track endurance head coach in the Cycling Australia High Performance program.
"That was in the back of our minds," said Hepburn after the race. "Macca's been the coach for twelve or thirteen years now and we really wanted to see him off with a victory so really glad we could get one up especially against the Poms.
"It's nice to get up with a new group of guys and really exciting to see the next couple of years are in good hands in the team pursuit."
Hepburn and O'Shea were members of the team that claimed silver at the London Olympic Games and both were keen to reclaim the title for Australia.
"We knew we had to go out hard," explained O'Shea of the team's quick start that put them in front after two laps. "Great Britain is known for going out hard and putting you under pressure so we wanted to go out and put the pressure on them for once. We got out in front early and managed to hold on."
Last year at both the Melbourne World Championships and the Olympic Games Edmondson was the reserve rider but tonight he came off the bench to collect gold and the rainbow jersey of a world champion.
"It's just pretty overwhelming at the moment to have made the team last year and then not got the ride and the same in London and now to come away with these boys and have the rainbows on my shoulders, I still can't really believe it but I just can't thank these guys enough," said Edmondson.
Meantime Morgan stepped into the lineup straight from junior ranks where last year he won gold in the team pursuit.
"It's going to be pretty hard to keep going like this I think but I'll do my best," said Morgan of claiming victory in his first race. "It's been an amazing start and hopefully it can keep coming.
"It was very nerve-wracking especially being my first senior world championships but I've done a few big rides like this before so you just have to go through your normal preparation and keep your head on. Very happy to come away with the win."
McKenzie was thrilled with the team's performance and with the time they posted.
"It was better than I expected," said McKenzie. "They were all out in the qualifying but a number of those guys are real racers and they really found another leg in the final.
"It was a nice feeling to go out on a win. Coming into the world titles we didn't really know where we were at but the young guys really pulled it together driven really by the return of Michael Hepburn."
McKenzie cites the 2002 world record ride to win Commonwealth Games gold in Manchester and the Athens Olympic Games victory as highlights in a thirteen year stint that has seen him steer the pursuit team to seven world titles, two Commonwealth Games gold medals and Olympic victory in Athens in 2004. His record also includes silver medals at both the 2012 Olympic Games and the 2006 Commonwealth Games as well as two silver and two bronze medals at World Championship level.
"I think it's time for a bit of fresh motivation and fresh ideas," said McKenzie. "It's three and half years out from the Olympics. I think it's the right time."
Cycling Australia National Performance Director, Kevin Tabotta, says succession planning is important for the sport.
"He's been a wonderful coach in our system and will continue to be a wonderful coach. This time around next year he'll be in a new role and playing a really important part across four endurance medals. It's a new challenge for him and a really important one.
"We're like a big family and (while) change is always necessary in high performance; moving things around motivates people, a little bit of agitation can get a shift in a group which is really important, but moments like that are emotional for him, for the staff and for the athletes."
McKenzie is renowned for remaining impassive in public despite the occasion or the pressure.
"(But) there's a party going on inside for sure," said Tabotta laughing. "There might not be too much being shown on the outside but he's a guy that does enjoy the successes no question. It's just that he's not jumping up and down on the track."
In the women's individual pursuit Tasmania's Amy Cure, 20, broke through for her first elite world championships medal when she claimed silver behind world record holder Sarah Hammer (USA) in the 3000 metres final.
"I came in here and wanted to go better than last year," said Cure who was fourth in Melbourne. "I can't complain about a silver medal; Sarah Hammer is an awesome rider, she's in a league of her own, but I'm really happy with how I went.
"I went out really fast and I paid for that in the end," said Cure who held the early but couldn't respond to Hammer's pace in the final kilometre. "I would have liked to have ridden a better time but I'm still happy with my silver medal.
South Australia's Nettie Edmondson, defeated Canada's Laura Brown in the battle for the bronze medal.
"A couple of years ago I would not have dreamt to be standing on the pursuit podium," said Edmondson who is a former sprinter and who last year claimed the bronze medal in the omnium at the Olympic Games.
"I would have preferred to go out a bit faster but it was not to be," she said of her qualifying ride that was slower than she had hoped for. She was the first rider to post a qualifying time in the afternoon session and then had to endure a nervous wait to see if she would compete for a medal. As it turned out it was Cure, riding in the last heat, that bumped Edmondson into the bronze medal final.
"It was tough watching each round go past and it came to the final round and at one stage Ames was in the lead, then behind, then she came back strong," explained Edmondson. "I was shaking, nervous and felt pretty sick but if it was to be anyone to beat me I'm glad it was my team mate Ames."
In there first championships together Kaarle McCulloch and Stephanie Morton came agonisingly close to claiming a place on the podium in the women's team sprint. McCulloch put the Australians four tenths of a second up at the end of the first lap but GB came home fast to clinch the bronze medal by a mere five thousandths of a second.
Action on day two of racing will feature Michael Hepburn and Alex Morgan in the men's 4000 metre individual pursuit where Hepburn is hoping to defend his crown and Morgan is tipped to challenge for a place on the podium. The women's team pursuit will also line up in the afternoon's qualifying session. Luke Davison will contest the 15km scratch race final. The male sprinters kick off their worlds campaign tomorrow with world champions Scott Sunderland and Matthew Glaetzer teaming with debutant Mitchell Bullen in the men's team sprint. Kaarle McCulloch is on the start list for the 500m time trial.
2013 UCI Track World Championships - Cyclones Australian Team
The eight sprint events are team sprint, sprint, keirin and time trial for both men and women.
The eleven endurance events are men's and women's team pursuit, individual pursuit, scratch race, points race and omnium plus the Madison for men.
SBS Television is broadcasting daily live and highlights coverage of the Championships - check local guides for details.