Big Southland sprinter Eddie Dawkins showed his undoubted speed and courage to highlight the final day of the UCI track cycling World Cup in Manchester today.
The 24-year-old clocked the fastest sea level time by a New Zealander to qualify second fastest in the men's sprint, but ultimately had to settle for 10th place after two spectacular crashes which left him battered and bruised.
Dawkins' efforts epitomised the New Zealand performance in the opening World Cup of the season, displaying promising speed but a lack of any world class racing found them out.
New Zealand riders finished with fourth placings in the team sprint, team pursuit and with Aaron Gate in the omnium, which produced a pass mark from head coach Dayle Cheatley with the added note that they must do better.
"Overall we had some encouraging efforts in the timed events of the team pursuit and team sprint and today in the individual sprint qualifying," said Cheatley.
"For us it was the start of the season and we knew we would be left wanting in the bunch racing because we have not had that stimulus coming out of the New Zealand winter but over the season we will build on this from here.
"Our young new riders got a taste of what it is all about.
"We now have the UCI Tier One event and Oceania Championships at home against a world class Australia outfit which will give us the top quality racing to springboard us through to the next World Cup in Mexico.
"These key events in Invercargill will give us the racing in our legs that we need."
Dawkins showed his undoubted speed and courage but had to settle for 10th place in the men's sprint.
Early in the programme he set a new fastest time at sea level by a New Zealand rider when he clocked 9.871s for the flying lap, to be second fastest overall.
Teammate Sam Webster clocked 9.772 last year at altitude in Mexico, while the previous best at sea level was 9.937s set by fellow Southlander Matt Archibald.
With the heat up in the velodrome, the Manchester track led to eight riders going under the 10 second barrier.
However Dawkins was the only New Zealand rider to qualify for match racing with Archibald 18th fastest in 10.125s, Webster 21st fastest in 10.143 and Simon van Velthooven 27th in 10.210.
Dawkins was involved in a spectacular crash in his first round clash with Adam Ptacnik from the Czech Republic with the Kiwi rider thrown over the handle bars. After picking himself up, Dawkins was relegated by the commissaires.
He was drawn to the subsidiary competition for first round losers, ultimately beaten in the B final by double Olympic medallist Maximilian Levy (Germany) with a photo finish required to separate the pair.
It was not before another spectacular crash in the B Semifinal, with Dawkins again recovering to gain a restart which he won over Spain's Juan Peralta.
"His was the undoubted individual highlight. It was a world class qualifying time. He was perhaps unlucky with the relegation and he was definitely in the form to progress a long way in the competition today.
"Unfortunately he has paid the price and taken off quite a bit of skin."
In-form Germany Robert Forstemann took out the sprint title in two straight rides over Trinidad's Njisane Phillip.
Shane Archbold, the other New Zealander in action today, finished in the bunch in the men's 15km scratch race.
Archbold positioned himself well with a three-man attack to chase the sole leader late in the race but could not sustain the effort.
"With no track racing Shane didn't have the legs but it was the right move with the other two riders ending up in the medals."
The team return home tomorrow to prepare for the first-ever UCI Tier One Olympic qualifying meet involving riders from six nations on 16-17 November at Invercargill, to be followed by the Oceania Championships against an expected full strength Australian team.
Day 3 results:
Men's Sprint, Quarterfinals: Robert Forstemann (GER) bt Denis Dmitriev (RUS) 2-0, Matthew Crampton (GBR) bt Adam Ptacnik (CZE) 2-0, Njisane Phillip (TRI) bt Michael D'Almeida (FRA) 2-0, Shane Perkins (AUS) bt Matthew Glaetzer (AUS) 2-0.
Semifinals: Forstemann bt Perkins 2-0, Phillip bt Crampton 2-0.
Gold medal: Forstemann bt Phillip 2-0. Bronze medal: Perkins bt Crampton 2-0.
Quarterfinals B: Maximilian (GER) bt Max Niederlag (GER), Eddie Dawkins (NZL) bt Peter Lewis (AUS), Valentin Savitskiy bt Seiichiro Nakagawa (CCT), Juan Peralta (ESP) bt Hersony Canelon (VEN).
Semifinal B: Levy bt Peralta, Dawkins bt Savitskiy.
Final B: Levy bt Dawkins.
Men's Scratch Race, 15km: Andreas Muller (AUT), 1; Elia Viviani (ITA) 2, Jonathan Mould (WAL) 3. Also: Shane Archbold (NZL) 23.