Cycling: NZ pursuit team set national record at world track championships

The New Zealand men's pursuit team will ride for gold at the track cycling world championships, after setting a new national record in Berlin.

On day one, the quartet of Regan Gough, Campbell Stewart, Aaron Gate and Jordan Kerby combined to set up a date with Denmark, who broke the world record twice to make the final. 

After qualifying behind the Danes, New Zealand took 0.7s off the national record against third-seeded France, clocking 3m 47.501s and dominating the match race to advance.

Denmark had to lower their own world record just to make the final, pushed to the limit by Italy with a time of 3m 46.203s. 

They'd set the previous record with 3m 46.579s in qualifying, beating the previous mark by Australia at last year's world championships.

New Zealand coach Craig Palmer expects his riders to give their all in the final. 

"The boys tidied things up with a stellar ride in the first round to get to the gold-medal ride," Palmer explained. 

"We came here to take a step up from performances in the World Cups and this was the first time racing with this combination, so it was two pretty impressive rides from them and sets them up well for the gold-medal ride tomorrow.

"We have a bit more in the tank, once we tidy a couple of things up and we will be taking it to them [Denmark] to challenge in the final."

The women's pursuit team are also in medal contention, after qualifying fourth fastest with 4m 14.383s. 

The combination of Bryony Botha, Rushlee Buchanan, Kirstie James and Jaime Nielsen will take on top qualifiers United States (4m 11.229s), with the winners earning a place in the gold-medal final.

The next two fastest teams will make the bronze medal contest, with Great Britain (4m 11.871s) and Canada (4m 12.728s) also in contention.

The women's team sprint.
The women's team sprint. Photo credit: Cycling New Zealand

But the men's and women's sprint teams failed to qualify for the medal round.

The men finished sixth fastest, securing a spot at the Tokyo Olympics, but lost out to France in a tense first-round clash. 

The women's team placed 10th during the qualification round.

"We had a solid qualification ride for the boys, which actually hoped for more, but we could not quite convert in the first round," said head sprint coach Rene Wolff.

"The boys are stronger and more powerful than they have ever been, but at the moment, we have not been able to put the rides together, so we have heaps of work ahead.

"The girls, right now, reflects our instability. We have showed that we can have a good world-class ride, like we did in Cambridge. 

"If we equalled that time today, we would be within the mix, so we have a lot of work to do on the physical side to make the next step."

Day two action includes the medal rounds for both women's and men's team pursuits, the men's keirin and women's sprint.