12 Nov 2023

NZ track queen Andrews powers to UCI series title

3:26 pm on 12 November 2023
Ellesse Andrews leads a women's Keirin race at the UCI Track Champions League meet in London.

Ellesse Andrews leads a women's Keirin race at the UCI Track Champions League meet in London. Photo: photosport

New Zealand cycling star Ellesse Andrews completed a memorable international season, taking the overall women's sprint honours at the UCI Track Champions League finale in London.

The second night of racing at the Lee Valley Velodrome, venue of the 2012 London Olympic track cycling, completed the five-round competition, involving a select invitation field in a series that traversed rounds in Mallorca, Berlin, Paris and London.

Andrews came into the final night in London on Sunday with a slender seven-point lead in the series over German Alessa-Catriona Propster.

The New Zealander didn't give her opponents a look-in, winning her heat, semifinal and the final in the individual sprint in commanding fashion.

With the German not progressing out of the sprint heats, Andrews stretched her overall advantage to 16 points.

She made that lead unassailable with her win in her keirin heat, but wanted to go out in style, going on to produce an impressive victory in the keirin final.

She pushed to the front on the last lap to hold off Propster and Colombian world championship silver medallist, Martha Bayona.

"Today was a massive day. I tried to focus on each individual race and not the overall although that was hard. I wanted to do my best race in each event today," Andrews said.

"I am happy I came. It is not always easy to get racing experience in New Zealand. We are a long way away from the rest of the world, so this was a perfect opportunity to come over and keep learning, and keep testing myself and pushing myself."

Andrews' triumph came at the same venue where she won three gold medals at last year's Commonwealth Games.

Fellow Cycling New Zealand sprinters Sam Dakin and Callum Saunders also enjoyed excellent debut seasons in the series, finishing fifth and eighth overall respectively.

Dakin finished fourth and Saunders sixth in the sprint competition in London, both making it through the heats in the sprint and but just pipped out of final qualifying in photo finishes in their keirin heats.

The riders return to New Zealand to continue their preparations towards the Oceania track championships in Cambridge.

International results

Elsewhere in London, Dutch sprint king Harrie Lavreysen and Australian Matthew Richardson served up an appetiser for next year's likely battle for Olympic glory as they went head-to-head on the final night of the UCI Track Champions League.

Olympic and five-time individual sprint champion Lavreysen has been almost unbeatable in the discipline but suffered a rare loss as Richardson edged him in the final at a packed London Velodrome -- Lavreysen showing his frustration on the line.

The 26-year-old responded, though, to win a thrilling keirin final after the British-born Richardson launched an audacious early attack but could not hold off a storming Lavreysen.

Richardson, 24, will make his Olympic debut next year and looks the biggest threat to Lavreysen's domination, although the Dutchman is clearly up for the fight.

"I think it's a big thing," Lavreysen said of his growing rivalry with Richardson after wrapping up the overall sprint title after the five rounds of the Champions League in which he won seven of the 10 sprint and keirin events.

"I think it's a good thing for the sport. It keeps me fresh because I really need to be focused and every time I see him in the track I know I need to make maximum effort.

"He tried to stick it to me in the keirin final. We are at the Olympics next year, and that's not going to happen."

While Lavreysen won back the overall men's sprint title he won in the inaugural Track Champions League in 2021, Britain's Katie Archibald also reclaimed the women's endurance title.

Shed was eclipsed by team mate Neah Evans in the 20-lap scratch race and was disappointed not to make it five wins out of five in the elimination race where she came third.

But her consistency throughout the rounds in Mallorca, Berlin, Paris and London made her a worthy champion and will send her in to an Olympic year full of confidence.

"It's a shame not to win the final races as this is the night my sister came to watch, but I'm really happy to win the overall title again," the two-time Olympic champion said.

Canada's Dylan Bibic did enough on the final night to wrap up the men's endurance title.

- RNZ/Reuters