Richardson outraced in sprint as cyclists swelter
Roger Vaughan |
Top Australian sprint cyclist Matthew Richardson has faltered in the final for a second day, finishing with silver at the Track Nations Cup.
Compatriot Matt Glaetzer also won the sprint bronze medal in a walkover after Malaysian star Azizulhasni Awang pulled out because of illness.
Richardson had comfortably beaten Awang two-heats-to-nil in their sprint semi-final on Sunday at Adelaide’s Super-Drome.
It was unclear whether Awang withdrew because of the sweltering heat, with the temperature inside the velodrome well into the 30s.
He also had open heart surgery in May 2022 to fix an artery.
Awang, the 2017 world keirin champion, dominated Saturday’s final of the event at the Nations Cup.
Coached by Australian John Beasley, he is a two-time Olympic medallist in the event and looms as one of the favourites again at the Paris Games.
Richardson had shone in the early keirin rounds on Saturday, but finished second-last in the final behind Awang.
The Australian ace also qualified fastest in the sprint on the final day of the Cup and after not dropping a heat through the competition, went one-nil up against Japan’s Kaiya Ota in their ride-off for the gold medal.
But Ota rallied superbly to win the next two heats and claim the gold 2-1.
Richardson and Glaetzer were key members of the team sprint combination that won on Friday – Australia’s only gold medal of the Cup round.
Countries earn qualifying points through the Track Nations Cup for the Olympics, with rounds to come in Hong Kong next month and Canada in April ahead of the Paris Games.
Also on Sunday, a partial power outage stopped the men’s madison for some 10 minutes, with the scoreboard and lap counter briefly going out.
The New Zealand combination of Aaron Gate and Cambell Stewart then dominated for an easy win, with the Australian pair of Oliver Bleddyn and Blake Agnoletto finishing ninth.
New Zealand headed the medal tally with four gold and a bronze, while Australia were fifth on one gold, four silver and two bronze.
Japan’s Mina Sato won the women’s keirin, while New Zealander Ally Wollaston claimed her third gold by taking out the omnium, with Australian Georgia Baker sixth.
Wollaston was a member of the winning team pursuit squad and also won the elimination race, a non-Olympic event.
Adelaide has been a happy hunting ground for Wollaston. Last month, she won stage one of the Tour Down Under on the road.
There were some positive signs for the Australian track squad at the Adelaide round as Paris looms, with Baker in strong form and the men’s sprint group continuing their encouraging build-up to the Games.
But there were some big gaps and the British, who have been a track powerhouse at the last four Olympics, again appear to boast greater depth – especially in the endurance events.AAP