Silver helps ease Gate’s Olympic pain

Aaron Gate has his silver medal admired by son Axel at the world track cycling championships in...
Aaron Gate has his silver medal admired by son Axel at the world track cycling championships in France yesterday. PHOTO: REUTERS
New Zealand rider Aaron Gate claimed his third medal over nine years in the gruelling men’s omnium at the world track championships in France yesterday.

Gate won the silver medal in the four-event omnium behind Great Britain’s Ethan Hayter, who dominated the competition, with the Kiwi covering his rivals to claim second place.

It is a reward for the likeable Gate, who just 11 weeks ago fractured his clavicle in a disastrous crash when New Zealand was within reach of the bronze medal in the team pursuit at the Tokyo Olympics.

The 30-year-old said he was thrilled with the effort which in part helped erase his Olympic woes, and he wanted to share the performance with his Izu Velodrome team-mates.

"I came into this not knowing how the track form was and I only had couple of days on the track here in Roubaix before racing," Gate said.

‘‘The podium was definitely a goal but I didn’t know if it was achievable or not until I started racing.

"The scratch race went pretty well and set the tone and I progressed from there. I didn’t have the legs in the points race that I would have liked but at the same time, at the halfway mark I knew I was racing for second.

Hayter was in a class of his own today. So I have to be pretty happy with that.

"I guess it is some redemption, so to speak. Izu still hurts because it was a team event and I didn’t get a chance to stand up there with my team-mates but this is a bit of silver lining. I have some texts from the boys already and look forward to catching up with them.”

Gate won gold in the omnium in 2013 in Minsk, and silver in Hong Kong in 2017.

Hayter dominated the competition to claim the gold medal, putting two laps on the field after going into the final points race with a six-point advantage. He also won five sprints in a dominant performance.

With Hayter out of reach, Gate focused on covering Portugal’s Iuri Leitao who was his closest challenger for the silver, and kept an eye on fast-finishing Italian rider Elia Viviani.

Gate started strongly, scoring points in four of the first five sprints, and importantly was second and third in two crucial late sprints before covering the Portuguese rider to protect his second placing.

Earlier, Michaela Drummond and Ally Wollaston had a top-10 finish in the two-person Madison, finishing a creditable ninth in the demanding 120-lap event.

On Saturday, Southland rider Corbin Strong, the defending champion, finished seventh in the men’s 40km points race.

Strong started well by winning the opening sprint, determined every 10 laps, and collected points in six of the first eight laps before numerous breaks led to laps gained on the field.

The New Zealander appeared to be in a group that gained a lap but he and the Italian rider were not awarded the 20 bonus points, which would have put him into bronze medal contention.

"There did seem some confusion with that lap but to be honest I didn’t have the condition to pull off a top result and the best guy won the race,” Strong said.

"It helped those who had the European champs a couple of weeks ago but that was no excuse. I didn’t have the legs today but I gave it everything I had."

Tokyo Olympic medallist and recent European champion Benjamin Thomas won on his home track to the delight of the French fans. He finished with 94 points, overtaking early leader Kenny de Ketele (Belgium) for the title.

New Zealand rider Ally Wollaston, who has been racing for a Dutch team on the road this year, finished 10th in the four-event women’somnium in her first venture to an elite world championship and first time back on the boards since early in the year.

 

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