Birmingham Commonwealth Games: Track cyclists boost NZ medal haul on opening day of competition

Track cyclists have added to the NZ Commonwealth Games medal on the opening day of competition at Birmingham. with the Kiwi sprinters and pursuiters joining triathlete Hayden Wilde on the podium.

Wilde opened New Zealand's account at the 22nd Games, taking silver in the men's triathlon, after incurring transition penalty between the bike and run legs.

But the Kiwis have quickly followed that up with success at the Lee Valley VeloPark, where the men's pursuit team have overpowered England for gold in a Games record time.

Soon after, the women sprinters clocked their second Games record of the day to beat Canada in the team event for New Zealand's second victory at the track.

Birmingham Commonwealth Games: Track cyclists boost NZ medal haul on opening day of competition

The women's pursuit team overcame the disadvantage of losing a rider to snatch the silver medal, trailling Australia home over 4000m, while the men sprinters won their bronze-medal ride-off against Canada to wrap up a successful night.

The results leave New Zealand with two gold, two silver medals and a bronze, with plenty of opportunities still to come on day one. 

The men's pursuit combination of Aaron Gate, Jordan Kerby, Tom Sexton and Campbell Stewart stamped their class in qualifying, clocking the fastest preliminary time of 3m 49.821s to reach the gold-medal ride-off.

England edged out Australia for the second spot and started stronger in the final, building a slight advantage in the opening 625m, before the Kiwis turned on the power.

New Zealand eventually came home in 3m 47.575s, eclipsing Australia's mark from Gold Coast four years ago.

"It was an incredible night," said Stewart. "We set it up in qualifying, we had a few things we had to work on.

"We went out there tonight, we knew we had to go faster... it all came together perfectly."

The result was particularly sweet, after Gate crashed in the bronze-medal ride at the Tokyo Olympics last year, after breaking the world record in qualifying.

The Kiwi sprint women established themselves as gold-medal favourites, after clocking a record 47.841s in qualifying, and were never under threat in the final, with BMX Olympian Rebecca Petch setting a torrid pace at the start, and Olivia King and Ellesse Andrews finishing the job.

Their 47.425s took almost half a second off their previous mark.

The women's pursuit team lost Ally Woolaston to a crash in the Tour de France Femme during the days leading up to the Games and recruited sprinter Andrews to make up a quartet on the start-line.

NZ women's sprint team celebrate gold at Birmingham
NZ women's sprint team celebrate gold at Birmingham. Photo credit: Photosport

With the team sprint her main priority, Andrews was there just to make up numbers and barely contributed to the effort, before dropping away, but that was still enough to help her teammates to the gold-medal race, clocking 4m 18.434s in qualifying - well behind the Aussies' Games record.

Andrews again slipped off the back early in the final and Australia powered away to beat their own record again, leaving the plucky Kiwis content with silver under the circumstances.