Kiwi track trio look to bounce back

The Timaru Herald - - SPORT - Aaron Goile

There’s been plenty of drama off the track for them to con­tend with, but New Zealand’s star track cy­cling men’s sprint team are also need­ing to rec­tify their on-track per­for­mance, at this week­end’s World Cup meet in Cam­bridge.

A messy 2018 which in­volved a damn­ing re­view into Cy­cling New Zealand, the res­ig­na­tions of chief ex­ec­u­tive An­drew Mathe­son and sprint coach An­thony Pe­den, was also less than mem­o­rable for the glit­ter­ing trio of Ethan Mitchell, Sam Web­ster and Ed­die Dawkins.

They fin­ished sixth at the world cham­pi­onships in the Nether­lands early in the year, and now have gone medal-less in the open­ing two World Cups of the new sea­son.

Things started well in win­ning the Ocea­nia champs for a sixth suc­ces­sive time in Ade­laide in Oc­to­ber, but the three-time world cham­pi­ons and two-time Com­mon­wealth Games gold medal­lists then suf­fered a me­chan­i­cal mishap – Web­ster’s foot slip­ping off his pedal – at the first World Cup in Paris a week later, to fin­ish 12th of 15 teams, be­fore the equip­ment com­pli­ca­tions con­tin­ued in the se­cond round in Mil­ton, Canada, the fol­low­ing week,

‘‘We were able to find the not very el­e­gant but ef­fec­tive so­lu­tion for the World Cup in Canada, that meant I had to get on my bike al­most a minute be­fore the other guys and start strap­ping in to keep my feet in the ped­als...’’ Sam Web­ster

where they placed fourth.

Hav­ing sat out the next World Cup rounds in Ber­lin and Lon­don, the pres­sure now ramps up on the team for big per­for­mances in Cam­bridge and the fi­nal round in Hong Kong next week, with points vi­tal in the two-year qual­i­fi­ca­tion pe­riod head­ing into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and world champs re­venge loom­ing in Fe­bru­aryMarch in Poland.

So there was one big thing to ad­dress on ar­rival back to New Zealand in the first week of Novem­ber – what on earth hap­pened with Web­ster’s bike?

‘‘That’s the na­ture of sport, if it all worked out how you wanted it to on the white­board, it’d be quite easy,’’ Web­ster quipped of his tribu­la­tions.

The 27-year-old first had the foot slip in the warmup in Paris, then it hap­pened again in the first ride. They were able to get a restart of the race and tried on the fly for a makeshift so­lu­tion but that didn’t work, and with no more restarts he had to do the whole ride with the foot ‘‘not clipped into the ped­als, just float­ing around’’.

‘‘It was a mas­sive dis­ad­van­tage for us,’’ Web­ster said. ‘‘We were able to find the not very el­e­gant but ef­fec­tive so­lu­tion for the World Cup in Canada, that meant I had to get on my bike al­most a minute be­fore the other guys and start strap­ping in to keep my feet in the ped­als, and run­ning two pairs of straps rather than a sin­gle set.

‘‘That was a lit­tle bit test­ing, but that got us through and we were able to fight for the medals.’’

Back home, con­fu­sion only grew as to what the ac­tual is­sue was though. ‘‘It was very strange, be­cause af­ter that we had no is­sues,’’ Web­ster said.

‘‘When we came back to Cam­bridge to try and iso­late what the ac­tual is­sue was, we used the same shoes and the same ped­als and the same cleat-clip mech­a­nism that goes onto the shoe, and I didn’t pull my foot at all.

‘‘So that was very hard for us to try un­der­stand, but we opted to com­pletely change ev­ery­thing, start­ing new. I think just by tak­ing a com­plete step back and look­ing at it from a very open­minded ap­proach we’ve found a so­lu­tion that should keep the foot in the pedal a lot more ef­fec­tively than what we were us­ing be­fore.’’

GETTY IM­AGES

The New Zealand men’s sprint team Ethan Mitchell, left, Ed­die Dawkins and Sam Web­ster are seek to re­turn to their gold medal-win­ning ex­ploits from last year’s Com­mon­wealth Games at the World Cup event in Cam­bridge this week­end.

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