Cycling: Campaign starts with World Cup win

Alison Shanks, of New Zealand, shows off her medal after winning the women's individual pursuit final at the UCI Track World Cup at Laoshan Velodrome in Beijing on Saturday. Photo by Getty Images.
Alison Shanks, of New Zealand, shows off her medal after winning the women's individual pursuit final at the UCI Track World Cup at Laoshan Velodrome in Beijing on Saturday. Photo by Getty Images.
Dunedin international cyclist Alison Shanks started her 2009 racing campaign with a significant victory in the 3000m individual pursuit at the World Cup in Beijing at the weekend.

She is not prepared to rest on her laurels though, and wants to crack the 3min 30sec barrier at the world championships in Poland at the end of March.

Shanks (26) does not see the target as a barrier.

It is more a necessity and something she must do to advance her cycling career.

"I've got to get into the 3min 20sec [range] to be competitive at the worlds," Shanks said from Beijing.

Shanks beat Latvia's Vilija Sereikaite, the World Cup individual pursuit points leader, in emphatic fashion in the 3000m final on Saturday morning. Fourth at the Beijing Olympics, Shanks lowered her personal best for the distance yet again, to 3min 30.685sec.

It was 2sec under her best time at the Olympics and nearly a full second under her previous best, set in the qualifying run on a cold Laoshan track in the morning.

Shanks was almost 5sec faster than Sereikaite in qualifying and she crushed the Latvian in the final.

"I was very excited to get a two-second personal best in the middle of a Chinese winter," Shanks said.

"I'm now reaping the rewards of my massive build-up for the Olympics last year.

"I had a good rest after the Olympics and my body is now building back into racing form and is fresh for the new season.

"I'm stoked about my performance.

"It was a hard race but I felt awesome.

"Some days you just click and it did this for me today."

It was a remarkable start to Shanks' competitive year.

"It is Alison's first competition since the Olympics," her coach, Craig Palmer, said.

"To produce this quality of performance after four months off the track was outstanding.

"Every time she steps on to the track Ali seems to ride faster and is now ready to challenge the best in the world."

Palmer said only six female cyclists had broken the 3min 30sec barrier for the 3000m individual pursuit.

The world record of 3min 24.537sec was set by New Zealand's Sarah Ulmer at the Athens Olympic final in 2004.

"On a warmer track she would have done it here," Palmer said.

Shanks combined with Kaytee Boyd and Lauren Ellis yesterday to clock a superb time of 3min 28.044sec to be the fastest of all qualifiers in the teams pursuit.

They will ride off against China for the gold medal this morning.

It is the first time this combination has ridden together in competition, with women's teams pursuit added to the International Cycling Union's world championship programme only last year.

Shanks arrives back in Dunedin early this week.