TrackNats24: Richardson, Leahy, McCaig and Anderson win elite titles on Day 1

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‘Feels unreal’: Conor Leahy enters rare air of five consecutive national titles in elite men’s individual pursuit

Western Australian Conor Leahy has stretched his incredibly strong hold on the elite men’s individual pursuit national championship to five consecutive years following a Day 1 victory at the 2024 AusCycling Track National Championships in Brisbane.

The 24-year-old was pushed all the way by Queensland’s James Moriarty, who started fast and held an advantage of more than two seconds at the halfway mark of the 4000-metre race.

A surprised Leahy responded to calls by coach Rohan Wight to up the pace and began to slowly eat away at Moriarty’s lead, with the pre-planned hot start beginning to take its toll on the 22-year-old.

Inside the final kilometre was where time began to fall off Moriarty’s lead in larger chunks, with the home crowd urging the hometown favourite to lift on tiring legs.

With two laps to go, the race was dead even and as the bell sounded for the final lap the lead flipped to Leahy for the first time.

At the finish, the winning margin extended to 1.922 seconds, with the five-time champion finishing in a time of 4:09.367 to Moriarty’s 4:11.289.

Leahy’s fellow Western Australian teammate John Carter overcame Tasmanian Josh Duffy in a tight bronze medal final that was separated by only 0.241 seconds.

What he said:

“Feels unreal, and like you said, probably not a lot of people have won five in a row in any event. I’m sure there definitely have been some of the legends of the sport to do it in those times when it was really competitive,” Leahy said.

“I love coming to Brisbane, this track has always treated me well and obviously the individual pursuit is one of my favourite events and to be able to come here every year and sort of test myself against some of my teammates every year, who I know are moving really well for some events coming up.

“It feels special to know that I still can show up every year and pull out a result.

“Jimmy starts a lot of our team pursuits so he’s really quick from the gun and I knew that the way I ride it, probably he needed to do that to get the jump on me and maybe some of my slipstream so I was expecting it but I wasn’t expecting it as much as that.

“When my coach Rohan was on the front straight telling me I need to lift and I was lifting and it was still lift, lift – that caught me by surprise. But I sort of just went back and trusted my plan and I knew that unless you’re Filippo Ganna or something and you start that hot that it’s going to bite you.

“And I just had to trust that it was going to bite and stick to my plan and happy that it paid off, but it was definitely worrying but awesome to see Jimmy pull that out at the start and take it to me all the way to the line.

“It gets competitive at this time of year in this year. You just saw in Adelaide that we had two teams, and the B team still pulled a 3:51 which is like, incredible, and it had Wil Holmes in it – a junior. And obviously you saw what Wil Holmes can produce today, he’s incredible.

“But all of that just shows the depth that we’ve got in Australia right now. Those Olympic spots are really competitive, and all the boys are really motivated and pushing each other but in a good way.”


Flawless Matthew Richardson wins elite men’s sprint crown for fourth time

Western Australian Matthew Richardson has continued his hot start to 2024 by winning the elite men’s sprint national championship dominantly at Anna Meares Velodrome.

The fastest sprinter in Australia was in no mood to play around right from qualifying all the way to the gold medal final and simply had another level of speed to call on compared to his rivals.

ARA Australian Cycling Team teammate Leigh Hoffman went deep to defeat Matthew Glaetzer in an epic semifinal duel and finished with the silver medal, while Thomas Cornish finished off a visibly fatigued Glaetzer to win the bronze medal.

What he said:

“It’s been a pretty big race block so I’m definitely feeling it in the legs, but it was a good day all in all,” Richardson said.

“I had a goal of trying to get Rudyk’s track record and all-comers record, however, that’s still out there so maybe one day. But happy to do my third 9.4 in a row and just keep that consistency up and deliver in the races.

“It’s hard to say (about having a mental edge over team sprint teammates). They definitely back themselves and so they should because they’re great bike racers.

“I think you always kind of have a mental edge when you’re the fastest qualifier, the same thing happens when I race someone quicker than me. You know that the pace is there so there’s definitely an edge, but those boys don't care, they’re racing as hard as they possibly can and I love it.

“We push each other to be the best that we possibly can, and they’ve taken rides off me in the past, so I definitely don’t take them for granted either and don’t underestimate them for sure and treat them with respect.

“We finished Adelaide Nations Cup and the boys were chatting about going to Oceays in the gym and basically I got mad FOMO. So, I called up Crampo (Matt Crampton) basically straight away from the gym and was like ‘can I go?’

“And he laughed and was like yeah why not, let’s go.

“So, I was stoked to go and just keep racing. It was a fun trip to New Zealand and I’m just really enjoying racing my bike at the moment and just executing flying 200s and different track and just learning as much as I can.”


Alessia McCaig stuns Kristina Clonan to defend elite women’s keirin national title

Rising Victorian sprint star Alessia McCaig has ticked off another major personal milestone by defending her elite women’s keirin national championship, but this year in a 1-6 final that contained Kristina Clonan.

McCaig sped over the top of the Queenslander in the final straight to grab a huge upset win against the dominant force in Australian women’s sprinting since 2020.

The victory adds to an already impressive start to the year that saw the 20-year-old impress in the keirin at the Adelaide UCI Track Nations Cup and further highlights that the gap is closing between herself and Clonan at the top of women’s sprinting in Australia.

Dependable New South Wales sprinter Selina Ho picked up the bronze medal behind McCaig and Clonan.

What she said:

“It’s been a long time coming that one but yeah super happy to defend my title from last year. I mean it was a strong race this year but super happy to come away with the win,” McCaig said.

“It was a bit of seeing how the race panned out but I either wanted to get to the front and control it from there, and if not then slot in and set a gap and run at the wheel and that’s how it turned out so that’s the way I did it.

“I definitely took a lot of confidence from the UCI Track Nations Cup keirin in Adelaide, I just went out and rode my own race, didn’t focus on anyone else and I think that’s just how I have to ride keirins from now on.

“I’m pretty surprised but I put in the hard yards and people don’t see that kind of stuff so I’m really happy to show it off here and super happy with this one.”


Alli Anderson latches onto winning scratch race move to earn first individual national title of her career

The shocks kept coming on the first evening of the 2024 TrackNats, with South Australian Alli Anderson capitalising on an attacking move with two international riders to win the elite women’s scratch race national championship.

Anderson was unaware of her first individual national title until given the message as she exited the track, leading to shock and excitement from the 20-year-old.

The Adelaidean finished with the bronze medal behind Ireland’s Lara Gillespie and Czech Republic’s Petra Sevcikova, with all three racing themselves into their own hunt for medals after attacking together and gaining a lap on a hesitant main bunch that contained defending champion Chloe Moran.

What she said:

“Incredible. Oh my goodness, I didn’t realise I’d won so when I crossed the line, I was like ‘ah third, I’ll take it’, but when they told me on the stairs I went ‘you’re joking’,” Anderson said.

“I didn’t realise that I could win from that position. Last year I got caught with half a lap to go so I was like; this year I need to make it to the final straight. I gassed myself gaining the lap.

“I got told to follow moves but that’s because I can’t win in a sprint finish, so I thought alright I’ll go, and I was in the perfect position and it ended up being the perfect trio – two internationals and me. I thought, well, now or never I guess.

“My first individual national championship and I can’t believe it’s in a scratch race, oh my goodness.

“I had glandular fever in November, so I missed out on the Track Nations Cup and Road Nationals, so this is massive. Never did I think this would happen so I’m super happy.”


Lauren Bates wins junior women's scratch race in impressive show of strength

An impressive finish from Australian Capital Territory’s Lauren Bates has handed her a third national championship across road and track in 2024 after winning the junior women’s scratch race in Brisbane at TrackNats.

Bates, the current road race and time trial national champion from RoadNats, hit the front of the race with four laps to go and marshalled the field until increasing the tempo with two laps to go.

As the bell sounded Bates unloaded the power, with Queensland’s Amelie Sanders the only rider able to get close to the Canberran’s wheel as the race stretched out around Anna Meares Velodrome.

Sanders would finish with a silver medal, while Anna Dubier finished in the bronze medal spot.

What she said:

“I’m pretty chuffed. I've been doing a lot of road training, so this is actually my first bunch race back on the track. So, it was a bit nerve-wracking at the start, I was quite nervous but really grateful to be here and represent my state,” Bates said.

“Look, I did not expect to be on the front with four laps to go. I kind of was going for an attack. I was originally going to go for an attack, but I sat and was like, ‘oh, it’s probably best to save myself for a sprint.’ I know I can do both, so yeah.

“It’s full road for me this year. This (track) is just a bit of fun at the moment, so yeah. I went to junior track worlds last year, and I had a pretty big accident, but it's so nice to be back on the boards and yeah, I love it.”


Tayte Ryan dominates junior men’s sprint and defends title

Show up. Execute. Dominate. That’s been the Tayte Ryan experience over the past 18 months in the junior men’s sprint events in Australia and that continued on Day 1 of the 2024 TrackNats.

The South Australian 18-year-old was a class above the rest of the junior men’s sprint field from qualifying, setting a 10.062 in his flying 200-metre, 0.482 seconds ahead of second-placed Queenslander Mitchell Louie.

From there, the junior 1000m time trial world champion strolled through the early rounds and always looked to be in control in the medal rounds, with a gallant effort from Victorian Reuben Smith in the gold medal final to push the pace early as close as anyone could get to Ryan.

What he said:

"It’s all going to plan so far this year. I’m really happy with how I raced at Oceania. A lot of learnings to take away from it, like even though I did well there, there were still lots of things I can take away and learn and stuff, that I applied today. So, I was quite happy with how everything went today. I feel like I probably executed most things as well as I can, and I was really happy with it today,” Ryan said.

“I was really, really happy with the first part of it, like I executed the build and the jump really well, but I bungled it a bit in turn four. I think I swung up off the red and I think that cost me some time. But I can’t be unhappy with a time like that. I was really pleased to put down another 10.0 in the space of a few months, even though there were a few things I could’ve done better in that last corner there, overall, I was really happy with the execution of it, aside from that part.


Wil Holmes takes junior individual pursuit record to new level

South Australian rising star Wil Holmes has smashed the junior men’s individual pursuit national record by five seconds in the opening session of the 2024 TrackNats en route to winning the first national title of the week in Brisbane.

The 18-year-old blew the doors off Cameron Rogers’ previous benchmark of 3:13.271 with a 3:08.181, a time one second outside of the world record time of 3:07.092.

Holmes’ dismantling of the record is placed further into the ridiculous when you consider that before Rogers, the national record stood for 12 years next to Dale Parker’s name.

The Team Jayco AlUla future signing made his elite ARA Australian Cycling Team debut at the Adelaide UCI Track Nations Cup last month while still a junior age rider and his record-setting day at Anna Meares Velodrome only increases the excitement around what Holmes can achieve as he develops further.

What he said:

“It was definitely the record (that was the bigger goal),” Holmes said.

“I said to myself that I would just go full gas in qualifying and see what happens because the national record is something I just wanted to have and try and hold on to for a few years.

“I wasn’t expecting to go quite that quick. I was hoping to do around a 3:10 or just under and I had the schedule set at 3:10.4 with my coach Brett (Aitken).

“But then I was up from the very first lap on the schedule and doing just over a 3:08, almost a 3:07 was something I was super happy with and I came into the final looking at only being 1.1 seconds off the world record in qualifying so I was going to try and have a go at it but I just didn’t quite have the legs in the end.

“I’d being doing around my schedule time in training a little bit but I was not quite near it so I was a little sceptical of whether I’d be able to hold it or not but I started fast and finished it fast as well so I ended up being two seconds quicker than schedule.

“I talked to Cam (Rogers) last year on one of the tours in Europe and I said to him that I’d try and break his record and he wasn’t sure whether I’d do it so it’s good to put a bit of time into him I guess.

“I’m just super happy with it and looking forward to the rest of the week and it shows how much I’ve developed in the last year with the elites so I think they’ve just lifted me to another level which has helped me so much.

“Training since October with the national team in camps has had me doing stuff that I’d never even thought I'd be able to do and it’s lifted me to a completely new level and I’m excited for the rest of the year on the road and the track, and hopefully an elite track worlds in a few years.”


‘It’s fun to be here’: Ireland’s Lara Gillespie wins elite scratch race gold

Ireland’s Lara Gillespie has stolen the spotlight from the Australian endurance woman in their first test of the 2024 TrackNats, winning the elite women’s scratch race to end Day 1 in Brisbane.

The 22-year-old from Dublin launched an attack with Czech Republic’s Petra Sevickova and South Australian Alli Anderson at the midway point of the 60-lap race that would prove to be the decisive moment of the race, with no cohesion present in the main bunch to chase down the trio.

Gillespie was the first to gain the lap after appearing to be the strongest out of Sevickova and Anderson, who both joined her on a lap gained shortly after but were visibly less comfortable.

With two laps remaining Gillespie put space between herself and her only two direct rivals for the gold medal and won comfortably ahead of Sevcikova and new national champion Anderson in the bronze medal position.

What she said:

“I’m feeling really good. It’s fun to be here, it’s something different and we’ve been training here since the Track Nations Cup in Adelaide and now we’re going to Hong Kong next week, so this is just perfect timing to get some speed in the legs and some proper racing against some good girls so I’m happy to be here,” Gillespie said.

“It’s so fun and the humidity is crazy, but I feel like I adapt really well in the heat training-wise so hopefully we get some good results in Hong Kong and see how it goes.

“It’s just so cool here and the weather is insane. It’s snowing back home so it’s so nice to be training under blue skies every day, and the rain.”


Pictures: Mackenzie Sweetnam

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