Hoskins hustles to gold as records tumble on London track
West Australia's Melissa Hoskins launched a successful solo attack late in the women's scratch race to claim the first gold medal awarded at the final round of the UCI Track World Cup Series on London's Olympic Velodrome while world records fell in both the team sprint and team pursuit events for women.
Hoskins, who lined up in the scratch race after being swapped out of the finals line up for the team pursuit, made the most of the opportunity to solo to gold half a lap ahead of the field.
"My personal strategy was to try and (get on the) podium because I haven't had an indvidual win at a world cup before," said Hoskins. "I wanted to produce something and that really paid off.
"I was bringing back a move (six laps to go) and when I turned around there was no-one there so I thought I'd give it a crack and thought 'if I get caught I get caught'," she explained. "Maybe half a lap to go (I knew I had won) but I wasn't confident at all because I know in the group were are a lot of girls who could challenge me.
"You just have to put your head down and go for it and don't hold back," Hoskins said. "It was a nice way to finish, by myself."
Earlier in the day three time world champion team sprint duo Anna Meares and Kaarle McCulloch set the first world record on the new Olympic track riding a time of 32.828 in qualifying to eclipse their own record of 32.923 set at the Copenhagen world titles in 2010. That put them through to a gold medal showdown with Jessica Varnish and Victoria Pendleton after the British pair clocked 32.966 in their heat.
"This is the best possible outcome we could hope for," said Meares after the qualifying session. "An Australian-British final is the closest thing to what will happen at the Olympic Games in terms of the atmosphere, so win or lose we will get a lot out of this."
The crowd for the afternoon session was loud but the night finals were raced in front of a packed stadium of predominantly British fans and they were there to make some noise.
Starting in the home straight Meares led out from the gate for the first lap to put the Australians ahead with 250m to go and McCulloch was also on pace. But Varnish was quicker than in qualifying and Pendleton delivered a sizzling final surge to reel in the deficit and stop the clock in a world record time of 13.962 shaving 74-thousandths of a second off the Australian's mark and claiming gold by a margin of almost two-tenths of a second.
"At the end of the day it's about Anna and I putting the best performance we can out on the track and we did that tonight," said McCulloch after the medal ceremony where the pair were presented with silver for the first time since 2009. "But you know what? This is only a stepping stone for us. We'll be better at the worlds and we'll be better in London, you can bet your bottom dollar on it."
"It's bitter sweet for us we didn't take the gold, we would have loved to have won," said Meares. "They've got the world record and that's very impressive but I expect they will improve and we will all improve so it's shaping up to be an interesting Olympics.
"We had the best possible situation of racing the British in the final in front of an extremely loud and vocal British crowd and that experience, you can't pay for that, you can't simulate that, you can't get that anywhere else, and I think that we are going to be a great deal better off for having experienced that tonight."
Meares, when asked about the impact of the 'wall of noise' generated by the parochial British fans, quipped with a grin, "I thought they were cheering for us, they are loud in any helmet."
Next on the schedule were the Australian women's pursuit team of Josie Tomic, Annette Edmondson and Amy Cure who gave the crowd another reason to cheer when they bettered the USA held world record of 3:19.569 on their way to claiming the bronze medal with a time of 3:19.164 in their 3000m match up against the Dutch.
But their status as world record holders was shortlived as Britain's Laura Trott, Danielle King and Joanna Rowsell powered to victory over Canada in 3:18.148 to win the gold medal in a time a second faster than the Austraians had ridden. The Canadians too bettered the Australian mark with a time of 3.18.982 to claim the silver medal.
"Now that Great Britain have set another benchmark we have to raise ours again," said Josie Tomic, 22, who has been a part of the women's pursuit program since moving into the elite ranks in 2008 in the wake of triple gold at the 2007 junior world championships.
20-year-old Edmondson had a junior career as a sprinter before switching to endurance events and earning national selection while Amy Cure, 19, stepped up to replace Hoskins for the final ride and, whilst the youngster of the team, she is well credentialled. Cure has four junior world titles to her name and is the current world record holder in both the under 19 individual and team pursuits.
Australia's team sprint men were also in action with Shane Perkins, 25, Scott Sunderland, 23, and teenager Matthew Glaetzer, 19, qualifying third fastest in a time of 43.869 for the three laps to move into the bronze medal final against Great Britain's Ross Edgar, Jason Kenny and Sir Chris Hoy who were a shade slower in 43.876.
Glaetzer's final lap of 13.107 in qualifying was the fastest of the event and he was close to that again in the medal race where the Australians were just a little slower in 43.954 and the Brits a tenth of a second quicker to claim the bronze medal in a time of 43.781.
In the gold medal decider reigning world champions, Germany (Rene Enders, Robrt Forstemann and Maximillian Levy) were fastest at every marker to secure victory in a time of 43.562 ahead of the French trio of Gregory Bauge, Mickael D'almeida and Kevin Sireau who clocked 43.631 for the silver medal.
Australian elite road time trial champion and 2011 team pursuit world champion, Luke Durbridge, lined up in the 30 km (120 lap) points race but struggled with the change of pace having not contested a bunch track race for more than a year. He placed 13th with the win going to Spain's Albert Torres Barcelo who lapped the field twice to finish with a 16 point winning margin through a tally of 58 points.
Saturday's racing will see Meares and McCulloch back in action with the women's sprint being contested from qualifying through to medal rounds. Matthew Glaetzer will be the sole Australian starter in the men's keirin competition while Amy Cure will line up in the women's 3km individual pursuit. Annette Edmondson will take on the six round women's omnium which begins tomorrow with a flying lap, points race, and elimnation race and concludes on Sunday with the individual pursuit, scratch race and 500 metre time trial.
340 riders from 48 nations and 18 trade teams are contesting the four-day competition that is the official test event for the 2012 Olympic Games. It is the last round of the four round series that kicked off in Astana last November before heading to Colombia in December and China last month. After the World Cup Series the world's best cyclists will head to Melbourne to contest the 2012 UCI Track World Championships from 4 to 8 April. The Australian Cyclones for the world championships will be named on 14 March.
The team for the London UCI World Cup round and results summary is listed below:
Cyclones Australian Team