Australian's first Track World Cup of 2017 proved a successful outing with three gold medals on the velodrome in Cali, Colombia. Gold went to Sam Welsford in the men's omnium, with Amy Cure claiming the points race, while the women's team pursuit squad closed out the meet with victory over Italy.
One of Australia's smallest squads in recent Track World Cups headed over to Cali for the penultimate round of the 2016-17 series where the youthful riders shone. Australia finished the meet second on the medal tally to Germany who claimed four gold medals.
Welsford was the one rider from Rio's team pursuit silver-wining squad in Cali but the 21-year-old was only racing the individual events. He no issues with the new omnium format, taking the gold medal a comfortable 11 points clear of Lindsay De Vylder (Belgium). Victory in the scratch race, third in the tempo and another victory in the elimination had Welsford in the box seat with just the points race to come.
Welsford was on the front foot during the final points race event to finish with 128 points to his name and a first individual gold medal in a Track World Cup. The win made up for Welsford's untimely mechanical in the individual points race, when leading the event, seeing him drop from first to 17th when gold was all but secured.
Following on from Welsford's gold, the endurance women's squad lined out for the team pursuit hungry for its own success. 2015 world champions Amy Cure and Ashlee Ankudinoff along with two-time individual pursuit world champion Rebecca Wiasak and Alex Manly started slowly by qualifying third in the team pursuit. The quartet turned it up a notch in the semi-final and recorded a 4:21.580 time to blitz the Canadians and set up a final against Italy.
In the final, the Italians started fast and led for the first two kilometres but started to fade as Australian hit their straps, riding to the gold medal victory. The win ensured the third year in succession Australia has claimed gold in the event at the Track World Cup series.
There was little time for Cure to celebrate though as she turned her attention to the women's points race. In 2014 Cure won the world championship points race on the Velódromo Alcides Nieto Patiño and it would prove a winning return as she again emerged triumphantly.
"I was a bit disappointed with some of my races over the last couple of days so it was good to finish on a high," she said. "I didn't put much pressure on myself leading into this race as I just got off the bike from the TP and was very happy with our gold from that.
"My legs were hurting as I wasn't the strongest in the TP and that hurt me a lot. I knew it was very important for me not to go too deep too early into the race. And then see how I feel in the back end."
Cure took a lap on the field to gain an early lead and despite a late charge from Sarah Hammer (USA), she held on to claim gold ahead of Hammer and Simona Frapporti (Italy) in third.
The final race day also saw Leigh Howard race the madison, with his partner Kelland O'Brien, for the first time since the 2010/11 season. The frenetic race saw constant change in the medal positions with the final sprint deciding the podium. Missing out on points in the final two laps saw the duo slip to sixth as the Danish duo of Casper von Folsach and Niklas Larsen claimed gold.
The fourth and final Track World Cup of the 2016/17 season takes place in Los Angeles, February 25-26.
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