How Australia won team pursuit gold and set a new world record

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Ella CyclingTips spoke with world champions and world record holders Annette Edmondson and Melissa Hoskins from Paris, following their brilliant display of team pursuit perfection at the Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines velodrome on Thursday at the 2015 Track World Championships. The duo represent half of the Australian women’s team pursuit squad that beat out four-time defending champions Great Britain for the gold medal, setting a new world record in the process.

Edmondson and Hoskins were joined by Amy Cure and Ashlee Ankudinoff for the four kilometre, four rider event. The quartet dazzled on the track, stopping the clock at 4:13:615, smashing the previous record (4:16:522) by nearly three seconds.

Cure and Ankudinoff have previously pulled on the rainbow jersey. Cure won the points race in Cali, Colombia last year. Ankudinoff teamed up with Sarah Kent and Josie Tomic for gold in the team pursuit in 2010. At the time, the event was run with three riders over three kilometres. The win would be the last for the Australian women’s team pursuit squad until yesterday.

We spoke with the squad’s two first-time world champions – Edmondson and Hoskins – by phone on Friday to learn what went right in their perfect pursuit.

Nettie Edmondson knows this moment was a long-time coming. The 23-year-old’s medal collection boasts numerous world championship medals, but they’re all silver and bronze.

“I’ve got a lot of seconds and thirds at World Championships,” said Edmondson. “I was very, very hungry for this one.”

“In the last few years, I’ve been confident going in with the team pursuit, but I haven’t had real belief in our ability to pull together as a team,” Edmondson added. “I would be unsure how we were going on the day because the training had been erratic. Everything has been perfect this year. Everyone has gone so well in training. We’ve been making the right decisions tactically as well as physically, and we finally got our reward.”

Hoskins echoed Edmondson’s sentiments. Having watched the squad’s times fall over the last few weeks of training, she arrived in Paris confident in herself and her teammates. Hoskins said she considered the team pursuit Australia’s race to lose.

“I knew that we had done the work to be able to achieve what we accomplished, but it’s one thing to do the work and another thing to have all four girls firing on two days over three rounds – and when I say firing, I mean being absolutely on song,” said Hoskins. “We’ve never had that happen before. It’s a credit to us and our coaches for the training we’ve done back home in Australia. Obviously it’s working.”

“When you’ve got a positive vibe within the team and one common goal and things start to work with measurable results, you start to back yourself and your teammates,” Hoskins explained. “You believe that you are the best you possibly can be at this point in time. That was us yesterday. We knew we had the goods. We weren’t about to let this chance slip away.”

The quartet far exceeded expectations. They posted the fastest time in the qualifying rounds with a new national record (4:18:135) on the opening day of competition. They lowered the mark further on Thursday to 4:17:40 in Thursday afternoon’s first round defeat of New Zealand.

“Throughout the course of the team pursuit, which was run over three rounds, we have felt very comfortable in the qualifying rounds, “ Edmondson noted. “We had four riders left, and we still hadn’t used up all our energy.”

“What we did in all three rounds was phenomenal,” added Hoskins. “It’s something you dream about. I have never seen a team ride three rounds and ride exactly the laps they were suppose to do exactly at the schedule they were suppose to do them or better. We did that.”

Edmondson points to the team’s work with Ian McKenzie as a key factor to their success. Hoskins considers Australia’s revamped approach to the team pursuit as the driving force behind the rainbow jersey that currently hangs in her hotel bedroom.

“We’ve changed the way we look at bike racing,” said Hoskins. “The way we look at the team pursuit is different, so is the way we look at our training.”

“Ian McKenzie used to work with the men’s track endurance squad,” noted Edmondson. “Now he’s come on board as a technical advisor in our group, so he’s implemented quite a few changes. I think that’s been the biggest thing.”

“The changes have instilled a huge sense of belief within the team, and the entire mood has changed,” Edmondson added. “We’ve been so positive and so confident because the times have been coming down in training. It’s been so good to demonstrate that the changes were right and that we would be good on the day.”

Championats du Monde Piste 2015 Dag 2

A full day following the win, Edmondson admits it’s still hard to fully comprehend the significance of their accomplishment.

“Last night was weird,” said Edmondson. “We didn’t go to sleep until 1a.m. I slept for two hours and then I woke up and was wide-awake for two hours and then slept again for another three. There’s this rainbow jersey hanging on our television, so I have some proof but it all still feels a bit surreal.”

“We weren’t going for the world record,” she continued. “We were just going for the win – to become world champions. This had never been a part of the plan. I think that’s what has created this whole surreal feeling as well. We went three seconds faster than ever before, and it’s not at altitude. It’s a huge, huge moment for us.”

“I think it’s only really sinking in this morning when we’re seeing all these articles and everything back home,” Edmondson added. “I Skyped with my parents today and they had local news on in the background. I could just hear them say: ‘And the Australian women’s team pursuit squad has smashed the world record’ and using words like ‘obliterated’.”

As thrilled as Hoskins is with her golden moment in Paris, she’s already talking about the next target – the 2016 Rio Olympic Games

“Of course we’re already looking forward again,” said Hoskins. “Everything we do is around one main goal – and that’s Rio.”

“I think we can improve,” Hoskins continued. “There’s no reason why not. There are areas as individuals where we can improve, and we all know that. We’re all so young as well. Ash is the eldest of the four of us, and she turns 25 in August. Development-wise, we’re still so young.”

“Tactically we rode an extremely good team pursuit yesterday,” she added. “We nailed every single one of our changes. Our lines, how close we ride – we’re one of the best at it. That’s how we win bike races. In that regard, we’re one of the best, but strength-wise, I think we can go to another level.”

Depth back home in Australia and on the sidelines creates further excitement for the future. The team travelled to Paris with a fifth rider, Bec Wiasak, who didn’t race in the team pursuit but was very much part of the team’s effort. Her gold medal in the individual pursuit confirmed her strength in the event. Unable to make the trip due to illness, Bella King provides another exciting option.

“We have a lot of strength and quality back home,” noted Edmondson. “This results has really ignited the flame of a few girls back in Australia. I’ve seen the tweets and the excitement. They just want to get on the track and train. This is a stepping stone. We all know the goal is Rio.”

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