By Shane Stokes in Manchester, England
Australia had a somewhat quiet world championship campaign in Mallorca one year ago but at the time, team coaches said that the emphasis was on helping young riders gain experience and it was to be expected. On this occasion, the squad were hoping for a stronger showing prior to the Beijing Olympic Games.
As things turned out, arch-rivals Great Britain had a dream showing on home soil, taking nine gold and two silver medals. Australia started the final day with just two bronze medals to its credit, namely the third place in the team pursuit achieved by Graeme Brown, Bradley McGee, Mark Jamieson and Luke Roberts and Katie Mactier's bronze in the individual pursuit event.
Leigh Howard and Belinda Goss made things look a little better, though, with Howard taking silver behind Hayden Godfrey in the omnium and Goss scooping bronze when she came in behind Eleonora Van Dijk and Yumari Gonzalez Valdivieso in the women's scratch race. That moved the country up to 11th in the medal table; far off where it had planned to be, but better than would otherwise have been the case.
Howard was buoyed by his result, the talented 18 year-old performing above his expectations. "I went into this saying that top five would be fantastic, so to come away with silver is unbelievable," he told Cyclingnews. "I started off doing a personal best time for the flying 200, so I couldn't have asked for anything more. The pursuit and the kilo were also personal best times for me it was fantastic and showed I had good form." He finished eighth, third and third in those events.
Howard was second and 12th in the other two races which make up the final total, eventually ending the omnium with 28 points to Godfrey's 19 [lowest points score wins].
"I rode really well in the scratch race, not so well in the points score," Howard continued. "That was more a tactical issue there rather than something amiss with the legs. But that's racing. I dont think anybody was going to beat Hayden anyway, he's been fantastic the whole day. So congratulations to him."
As for Goss, she finished 12th in the scratch race at the worlds last season and so getting a medal was a very nice upwards trend for the 24 year-old. "I'm certainly stoked by the result," she said. "This is my first medal at a senior [world] championships, and it is a great improvement on last year.
"There were attacks throughout the race so the pace was on for a lot of the time. It is always nice to win but certainly third is a great start to where I want to go. Ellen attacked at a perfect opportunity and she was strong enough to hold us all off. So well done to her."
Goss will head back to Italy and return to racing with the Australian Institute of Sport team, while Howard will return to Australia for a month before flying back to the same European country and doing likewise. Like Goss, he is optimistic that things will improve for Australia before Beijing.
"We have done quite well considering and I am sure come Olympics, Australia will pull together," he said. "Unfortunately we didnt get a start in the madison, but come the team pursuit and the points race, I think that Australia will really come together in time."