New Zealand scored two more victories in sprint star Eddie Dawkins and Madison duo Campbell Stewart and Aaron Gate at the Track Cycling World Cup in Cambridge.
Dawkins waited for the final event of the night to produce a gutsy display to edge out rivals to claim the keirin title, backing up his gold medal in the team sprint on the first night at the Avantidrome.
A powerhouse display from Dawkins gave New Zealand its fifth gold medal of the week.
In the tightest final so far, Dawkins stormed home over the final 50 metres, coming from behind to win by 0.05s from Quentin Lafargue of France, with Yudai Nitta (Japan) another 0.02s further back in third.
Dawkins, who’d steadily built throughout the earlier rounds, got in a tight spot early, but was able to fight his way through the field.
“I went through the bell about 50 metres off the front guy and I was panicking a wee bit, but the nature of being on the front early means you burn a lot of candles and I managed to use the slipstream off Quentin Lafargue and shot past him, and it gave me the momentum to catch first place,” said Dawkins.
Like the rest of the New Zealand team, Dawkins is proud to have put on a show on his home track.
“It’s huge. The fans and the crowd give a lot of motivation to us Kiwis, and you can see it in performances, you can see stuff that’s maybe not expected, times that are super, super world class that shouldn’t be happening at this time of the year. It’s a testament to how much the crowd motivates us and how much we draw from that.”
Stewart, a four-time junior world champion, and the 2013 omnium world champion Gate were thoroughly dominant, lapping the field twice on the way to victory in the two-rider event that has been added to the Olympic schedule at Tokyo.
Gate and Stewart had the local crowd in raptures as the kiwi pair produced a statement performance to take the men’s Madison.
The New Zealanders simply outclassed the field with a masterful display of both tactics and endurance, taking two laps on the field and winning points in 10 of the 12 sprints. With the race already wrapped up, Gate and Stewart then had the sell-out crowd on their feet by taking out the final sprint to finish with 76 points overall.
It capped a fabulous and exhausting few days for Stewart, who was part of the national record-breaking men’s team pursuit last night.
“Aaron really pushed it to get that first lap and then initiated the second as well, and I just kinda had to follow and keep up the pace. I think every time I swung up, I tried to get as much rest and then hit it, gain a bit more distance and then we just consolidated,” Stewart said.
Gate is relishing his return to the track after a few years on the road and is thrilled to perform so well in front of home fans.
“I had plenty of friends and family in the crowd, so had to put on a good show for them. Especially with the pressure of all the success of the rest of the team last night, I really had to live up to the high expectations that the crowd had, so it was great to be able to pull it off.”
If he was in any doubt about his decision to get back on the boards, it’s now gone.
“It’s definitely cemented it. I mean you’re only as good as your last race, so to come out here and have a good one, it’s definitely cemented my hunger to be back chasing more medals on the track,” Gate said.
The Dutch duo of Yoeri Havik and Roy Pieters were second with 30 points, while American pair Daniel Holloway and Adrian Hegyvary took the bronze medal with 26 points.
Sunday’s final day action features the men’s sprint, women’s keirin, men’s omnium, women’s scratch and madison.