The world championships are over and the host nation – and many other countries – can celebrate a successful campaign. The Netherlands topped the medal tally with five gold, five silver and two bronze. Meanwhile, the four Aussies left with at least one medal each.

One great quandary of modern cycling is: why is track racing not more popular?

Of all the forms of riding, track cycling is arguably the easiest for broadcasters to cover. The savvy onsite spectator can see almost all of the action as it unfolds. There is no time wasted standing by the side of the road in all manner of weather while you wait for the peloton to speed by. And you don’t have to pick one spot by a dirt track in the quest to see the racing…

On the velodrome, everything is on display.

You can see it all from the stands: warm-up, pre-race pep-talks, anxious moments before the start, the contest itself, the victory lap(s), the post-race celebrations (or frustrations), the medal ceremony… it’s there, right in front of you – unless, of course, you’re not able to make it to the track.

In a year when the Commonwealth Games are being contested in Australia, the worlds didn’t rate much of a mention in the media. And, as we’ve often stated since the announcement was made in January, only four riders from the newly-renamed ‘Australian Cycling Team’ were sent to the Netherlands at the end of February.

All four Aussie riders did, however, finish with a medal!

The ‘awesome foursome’ (let’s pinch that title from rowing, and spell it correctly) of Matthew Glaetzer, Cameron Meyer, Stephanie Morton, and Callum Scotson finished equal second on the medal tally.

Of the 20 events, the Australians contested nine, won two, finished second in two, and finished third in two!

  • Gold: Meyer – points race; Glaetzer – sprint
  • Silver: Morton – sprint; Glaetzer – ‘kilo’
  • Bronze: Scotson – scratch race; Meyer and Scotson – Madison

 

Not bad, huh? Actually, pretty damn good – certainly something to be proud of.

But did it rate a mention at home? Not really.

Photo: @CyclingAus (Twitter)

The cycling fraternity understands how significant the efforts of the Australian Cycling Team are. They recognise that winning a world title difficult and prestigious, and they gather together in a tight-knit online community to voice their appreciation. But in the media it barely earned a sentence of commentary.

Cycling Australia is going through some changes and Amy McCann, who manages the media in March 2018, did all she could to file thorough reports of the action and a summary of what unfolded on each of the five days of competition in Apeldoorn (28 February-4 March).

The former media liaison officer – or, rather, the ‘General Manger – Marketing and Communications’ – was Karen Phelan. Her position has been advertised and the federation is seeking someone who can create a bit of a buzz for our sport in our country.

It’s a difficult task but there is interest and there certainly is success, so some elements of the job are made easier by the riders who consistently and professionally deliver results. And they do so with a sense of humility and grace that should make them household names.

Glaetzer: first in the sprint, second in the ‘kilo’.

Photo: @CyclingAus (Twitter)

“It is quite impressive for us to pull off so many medals for just the four of us,” summarised the youngest of the team, Callum Scotson, after the final day of competition. “We are all really happy.”

They talked about their conquests with grace and even took the opportunity to remember friends who are no longer with us after stepping off the podium.

“I can imagine how happy and emotional he would be right now,” Glaetzer said after becoming the first Australian since 2002 to win the sprint crown. The South Australian was talking about Gary West, the former national sprint coach who passed away in 2017 after a battle with MND.

“He put so much time and effort into me,” continued Glaetzer. “He was so passionate about the sport and put so much of his life into his athletes and my thoughts go out to the West family today. He is a big part of this achievement today.”

It’s the kind of stuff to raise goosebumps and make a nation proud. And the way in which Glaetzer disposed of his rivals before making the statement is a reminder of how much he has matured in sprinting in a few short years. Undefeated all the way to the top step of the podium, the 25-year-old claimed the rainbow jersey that many Australians have worn before but one that had proven to be elusive since 2002.

He joins Bob Spears (1920), Gordon Johnson (1970), John Nicholson (1975 and 1976), Stephen Pate (1988), Gary Neiwand (1993), Darryn Hill (1995), and Sean ‘Big Man’ Eadie (2002) as Australian winners of the sprint world title.

And Glaetzer did all this in the sprint a day before going under a minute (again) in the ‘kilo’ TT and claiming the silver medal, sandwiched between two Dutchmen in the standings. Jeffrey Hoogland was first in 59.459 – the fastest time ever ridden at sea-level (eclipsing Glaetzer’s 59.759 from the nationals) – while veteran Theo Bos was third in 59.955.

Glaetzer’s 59.745 earned him silver in Apeldoorn and is the fastest any Australian has completed the famous kilo time trial in.

A standing start. A powerful surge out of the gate. A lap to get up to speed. Settle into the aerobars and go… fast! From the stands, you can see the lactic acid building up in the legs and understand the agony that would come from holding such a pace for four laps.

Steph Morton took 11-time world champ, Kristina Vogel, to three rides in the final of the sprint.

Photo: @WKbaanapeldoorn

In Australia you could watch if you really wanted but it took effort (and money) to see the images from Apeldoorn. Get up early (or stay up late) and watch on Foxtel. The evening sessions in Holland concluded at around 5.30am on the east coast of Australia.

McCann’s releases appeared in the inbox shortly afterwards. She collected the quotes and posted her summaries on Cycling Australia’s website. And it was possible to get a sense of the emotion that the four Aussies were going through over in Holland. Despite the prestige, however, it was difficult to even find a photo of the events.

The best method of following the worlds from Australia was via the Tissot Timing website (one track fans should bookmark for it provides a great service and lists the results promptly, complete with splits and analysis).

Meanwhile, the swimming national championship were live on free-to-air TV and sports fans could – if they wanted – watch as athletes paddled and kicked their way into Comm Games selection (or not).

Chloe Dygert (above) won the individual pursuit in a world record time: 3,000m in 3:20.072. 

Given the option of seeing a fast freestyle 50 or Steph Morton take on Kristina Vogel in the final of the sprint, I know what I’d choose.

The 27-year-old Morton has ridden out of the shadows of a darling of the Australian cycling scene, Anna Meares, and the South Australian is proving that she deserves one of the few places on the team for worlds (and Comm Games) selection. She didn’t make the medal ride-off in the 500m TT or the final of the keirin, but she pushed Vogel to a deciding third ride in the sprint.

The German got the win and matched Meares’ impressive tally of 11 world titles and Morton can be satisfied with her silver.

“You can train and train,” said Morton, “but it is not until you come out here and have to race…” that’s when the training pays off. Not many Aussies got to test themselves at the worlds but those who did, made the most of the situation.

“It helps you get that level up in fitness,” said Morton, “having to back it up throughout the rounds.”

She’ll return to Australia knowing that her next international competition will be in front of a home crowd.

The Commonwealth Games are the priority for the Australian Cycling Team in 2018. Simon Jones is unapologetic about his approach and he will chastise anyone who dare suggest that the selection of four riders for the worlds is “embarrassing”.

His eyes are firmly set on track events in Queensland this April and after that it’ll be a strong focus on Tokyo in 2020.

 

* * * * *

 

There are plenty of fantastic achievements to consider at the end of the championships in Apeldoorn. On a personal level, much of it was seen via replay the morning after the racing and there are a few files on the hard-drive that I wish could be shared so that others (who don’t have Foxtel) could see the panache of Meyer in the points race, the speed of Scotson in the scratch race, the cunning of the pair in the madison… etc.

What Glaetzer and Morton did in the sprint deserves to be seen by many rather than archived in a list of other recordings on the Foxtel iQHD.

The world championships are a showcase of cycling. Below are links to the results of the 20 events on the program. There will be similar contests at the Commonwealth Games and hopefully a capacity crowd at the Anna Meares Velodrome.

The good news is that, at the next round of international competition, we’ll also get to see how the Aussies go in the team pursuit, the individual pursuits, the team sprints… and other events in which they medalled at the worlds in 2017 but didn’t contest in 2018.

 

There were races all over the world these past few days, some of them run on muddy roads in Italy or cold conditions in France, others on a track inside a building in the Netherlands. There were winners and losers and efforts that evoked emotions…

If you were lucky enough to be trackside in Apeldoorn, you’d have witnessed some amazing efforts. Track cycling is fantastic to watch. It may be difficult to see it unfold in February 2018 but in April it’ll be a little easier – and hopefully the riders will put on a show that will inspire others to take to the bike and see what they’re capable of.

 

 

– By Rob Arnold