Morton and McCulloch motor to Team Sprint Rainbows
28 February 2019
CYCLING - TRACK: Stephanie Morton (SA) and Kaarle McCulloch (NSW) surged to the team sprint world title in Poland on Wednesday to open the Australian Cycling Team’s campaign at the 2019 UCI Track World Championships.
The pairing topped the afternoon qualifying session (32.492), before setting a new national record of 32.368secs in their first-round defeat of China.
In the final, the duo scorched the track once again, with McCulloch bolting from the gates and Morton powering home to record a time 32.255secs which eclipsed their new national mark.
“I am speechless, and it takes a lot for that to happen,” said Morton. “It is pretty surreal, we had pretty high expectations tonight, and we have absolutely exceeded them. Gold was just a bonus.”
The win was Morton’s first at an elite World Championships, however, it is her fourth career rainbow jersey after she piloted visually impaired cyclist Felicity Johnson to three Tandem world titles in 2011 and 2012. Morton and McCulloch’s previous best was silver at the 2017 World Championships.
“We had set a couple of things to focus on, the plan was to build on every ride and get faster and faster, regardless of conditions,” Morton revealed. “And we did, and that is the most important thing."
For McCulloch, it was a fourth team sprint world crown after partnering Anna Meares to three straight titles (2009-11).
“We just got better and better with every ride, we were a bit nervous to begin with, but we just kept focussing on our processes which is what we were here to do,” said McCulloch, who in romantic circumstances celebrated the 2019 crown on the same velodrome she won her first world title in 2009. “Ten years on I am the world champion with Stephanie Morton and in a blistering time too.
“We are really proud, and happy that this is all building towards Tokyo. This is a nice step in that direction we will take a lot of confidence out if this."
McCulloch also revealed she is relishing the switch to the position of first-wheel after spending her years with Meares in the second-wheel position.
“Anna and I worked really well together, but I feel a little relieved that I am only doing one lap now,” McCulloch joked. “So sucked in Steph, it was hard work chasing Anna in first-wheel, so I hope I am making it hard for Steph to chase me.”
Patrick Constable (SA), Nathan Hart (ACT) and teenage debutant Matthew Richardson (WA) finished sixth in the men’s team sprint. Sixth fastest in qualifying (43.628), the trio was edged (43.518) out of the medal finals by eventual silver France (43.086) in the first round.
In other Day 1 results:
World record holders Leigh Howard (VIC), Kelland O’Brien (VIC), Samuel Welsford (WA) and Alex Porter (SA), plus debutant Cameron Scott (NSW) launched Australia into the team pursuit final against traditional rivals Great Britain on Day 2.
Commonwealth Games champions Ashlee Ankudinoff (NSW), Amy Cure (TAS), Annette Edmondson (SA), plus Georgia Baker (TAS) warmed the chilly Pruszkow track to top the women’s team pursuit qualifying in a time of 4mins 14.915secs. The quartet will be back on the track Day 2 when they face Italy in the first round.