The Australian Cyclones have topped the medal tally at the Los Angeles Track Cycling World Championships finishing the four day event with one gold, three silver and five bronze for a total of nine medals.
Day four of competition saw Kate Bates, 22, claim silver in the scratch race to add to her points race bronze and individual pursuit silver while Jobie Dajka, 23, clinched bronze in the men’s sprint.
The Australian performance ranked them fourth on the medal table behind Great Britain (4, 1 and 1), the Netherlands (2, 3 and 3) and Germany 2, 0 and 1) and has been greeted as a major success for the cycling program in the first year of the new four year development cycle.
"We’re very pleased because we came here with not very high expectations," said Australian Head Coach, Shayne Bannan. "The aim was to experiment and develop riders using different strategies towards the next four years and Beijing.
"If you look at this 2005 performance compared with 2001 (one gold and two silver medals) it’s a very healthy situation," said Bannan who believes the whole team deserves credit for the Los Angeles success. "The whole team in general has been a standout with their attitude and commitment.
Several of the ’big guns’ of Australian sport were not in Los Angeles due to either injury or professional road cycling commitments and Bannan believes what was achieved in their absence puts Australia in an ideal position heading into the Melbourne Commonwealth Games.
"We may gain some of our more experienced riders and along with the young group we used here we are pretty much on target to achieve in Melbourne what we achieved in Manchester," said Bannan. In Manchester Australia claimed ten gold, seven silver and six bronze medals to crush their rivals but cyclists from Great Britain have now earned their stripes on the international stage.
"We’re in the situation again where we are the hunter and it gives us extra motivation," said Bannan. "That’s when ’Aussies’ perform at our best and going into Manchester you wouldn’t have considered us a favourite which may be the case again going into Melbourne.
"We would expect to have close to our best team for Melbourne but it depends on the availability of some of our pro riders," he said. "But it’s important that here we’ve exposed a young group to the top level and even if the pros are not available I still feel we have enough depth to be very good."
Kate Bates did everything right in the final of the women’s 10km scratch race attacking with three laps to go but couldn’t hold off Russian juggernaut Olga Slyusareva, 35, in the final metres.
"I can’t be disappointed because the only way I was going to win that was to go from the front and the race plan went perfectly," said Bates. "But she was just better, not by a little bit but by a couple of lengths so I’m happy.
"I’ve gained a lot of confidence and know I’m getting where I want to be and where I can be," said Bates. "(Although I’m) slightly frustrated that it’s three minor medals and I’d trade them any day for one gold."
But Bates also recognises that her choice to contest three events rather than specialise in either pursuit or points/scratch races puts her at a slight disadvantage.
"That’s my choice and we’ll see how it goes in the next few years and maybe I’ll make some compromises to try and get one of those stripy jerseys (World Champion’s rainbow striped jersey), said Bates who heads to Europe in a few days to rejoin the Ton Van Bemmelen professional road team for next weekend’s fifth round of the road World Cup in Belgium.
"No rest for wicked and I’m looking forward to a good road season to set me up for another crack on the track at Commonwealth Games," she said. "It’s really special to have them at home so I’m targeting that - no Russians and no Italians so pretty confident I can achieve my goals there."
An added disappointment for Bates was the fact that she had abandon her plan of buying a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes (valued upwards of $600).
"No I don’t get them because I didn’t get the gold medal so I didn’t earn the shoes," said Bates who sets similar goals at each major event as an added incentive to perform. "I’ll just have to wait now until Commonwealth Games and hopefully my results there will mean I can get the Manolo Blahniks."
Adelaide’s Jobie Dajka scored Australia’s final medal of the Championships when he defeated Frenchman Grégory Bauge in two straight heats in their best of three races for the bronze medal.
Dajka had caused the upset of the Championships when as the ninth fastest qualifier he ousted reigning World Champion, Theo Bos of the Netherlands in the quarter finals on Saturday night but today a gearing problem in his first heat and a mis-judgement of the power of his rival in the second heat saw him lose to eventual gold medallist René Wolff of Germany in the semi finals.
The bronze medal round was a race for the battle scarred with Dajka feeling the effects of his spectacular crash in the keirin two days ago and his French rival sporting fresh injuries from a major crash in his semi final defeat to countryman Mickael Bourgain. In fact the crowd was surprised Bauge continued racing after witnessing his sickening high speed crash.
"I always expect the best out of someone so I wasn’t surprised to see him back on his bike," said Dajka who defeated Bauge in two straight heats. "I just raced him the way I usually would and came out on top - sporting some scars of my own as well but that’s racing; sometimes it’s good luck and sometimes bad luck so I’m just happy to come away with something.
"It’s always disappointing not to finish on top but this year the goal was just to put my face back on the map and I think I’ve been able to do that," said Dajka. "Now I’ll have a couple of weeks off and then get back on track for the Commonwealth Games
In the other events contested on the final day Australia’s young Madison pairing of Chris Sutton, 19, and Sean Finning, 20, finished 11th in a race that began at breakneck speed and featured a flurry of fast sprinting from the experienced professionals. The pair tried to break away when the pace eased at the halfway mark but their rivals chased them down. However an audacious and exquisitely timed attack by the British pair of Rob Hayles and Mark Cavendish caught the field napping and resulted in a gold medal for them. They finished without any sprint points but one lap up to claim victory over the Netherlands (Robert Slippens and Danny Stam) on 22 points and Belgium (Matthew Gilmore and Iljo Keisse) on 20 points.
The women’s keirin saw Anna and Kerrie Meares back in action but Kerrie failed to win through to the second round whilst Anna was pipped for a placed in the medal final. She rallied to win the ride off for seventh to 12th places. Clara Sanchez of France successfully defended her 2004 crown ahead of Italian Elisa Frisoni and Yvonne Hijgenaar of the Netherlands.