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Cycling: Sprint team win world title in London

The New Zealand Men's Team Sprint team get under way at the start of their qualifying round. photo / AP
The New Zealand Men's Team Sprint team get under way at the start of their qualifying round. photo / AP

New Zealand's team sprint cyclists have set the benchmark in their discipline by winning the world championships ahead of the Rio Olympics.

Swift and powerful in the London velodrome, the long-serving trio of Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster and Eddie Dawkins eventually accelerated through their Dutch rivals in the final, having left Germany, France, Australia and Britain in their slipstream from the qualification round.

The Kiwis finished in 43.257s, beating the Dutch by 0.212s. Their average speed was 62.417km/h compared to the Dutch's 62.113km/h.

Dawkins was the key, clawing back a 0.068s deficit at the end of the second lap. He flew around the boards in 13.143s.

"It's always good to win, but to do so in the year of the Olympics is awesome," Dawkins said. "It puts a big bullseye on our back for the next few months, but better to be the bullseye than chasing it."

It's the second rainbow jersey for the trio, who won their maiden title in 2014. Coach Anthony Peden stood trackside with the national flag and the smiles of each were as wide as the home straight.

Listen: Sam Webster talks to Radio Sport after the sprint team secured gold

The New Zealanders were disqualified against France for overlapping a wheel on transition last year, and lost to Germany at the Cambridge World Cup in December. The result also presents a resurgence after the Cali World Cup in October when, in an open air velodrome, Dawkins could not draft onto Webster's wheel and they finished 16th.

The London result gives them a chance to consolidate, ruminate and channel their energy into the hunt for Rio glory. No New Zealand team of three or more people have won gold since 1984. The trio's culture of "friendly competitiveness" suggests this is possible.
Barring gold for the team pursuiters, the sprinters are likely to be tagged New Zealand's medal priority for the Games. That means the limited team spaces will be built around their foundation.

"We race a good team race and were smooth with our technical changes which helped us gain time," Webster said.

"Eddie [deserves credit too] for getting us back into the reace and getting us into the positives for the win."

"We came here in some of the best form we've had," Mitchell added.

Mitchell, Webster and Dawkins finished 0.2s faster than the Netherlands in their heat. Again, Dawkins delivered the decisive last lap of 13.213s which took them from second to first.

Elsewhere, New Zealand will take on perennial rivals Australia in the first round of the men's team pursuit tomorrow.

The quartet of Dylan Kennett, Piet Bulling, Nick Kergozou and Aaron Gate were the third fastest qualifiers in 3m 57.050s.

Great Britain, led by Sir Bradley Wiggins, were fastest in 3m 55.664s ahead of Australia in 3m 55.867s, New Zealand and Denmark.

The hosts take on Denmark in one match, with the Kiwis, who won the world title in Paris last year, against Australia. The winners earn a place in the final.

New Zealand were 10th fastest in the women's team pursuit with Natasha Hansen and teenage debutant Olivia Podmore clocking 33.932s.

Olympic team selections will be made in June after Cycling New Zealand send their submissions for New Zealand Olympic Committee approval.

- NZ Herald

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