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Australia make big start at cycling worlds

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 12/04/2017

Australia's team pursuiters have made a solid start to the world track cycling championships in Hong Kong, with the men going close to the world record.

The new-look quartet of Sam Welsford, Cameron Meyer, Kelland O'Brien and Alex Porter qualified fastest with a scorching time of three minutes 50.577 seconds.

Their British arch-rivals set the world record of 3:50.265 at the Rio Olympics.

Great Britain beat Australia in an epic final to win the gold medal for the third-straight Olympics.

Of Wednesday's qualifying quartet, Welsford was the only Rio Olympian and O'Brien is making his senior worlds debut.

Australia dominated qualifying, beating second-fastest New Zealand by a whopping margin of nearly three seconds.

The Kiwis posted 3:53.422 and the British were fifth-fastest.

The first round of racing will be held in Wednesday's evening session, with the medals decided on Thursday.

It was also a good start for the Australian women's team pursuiters, who qualified second-fastest behind the United States.

Rio Olympians Amy Cure and Ashlee Ankudinoff combined with Alex Manly and Rebecca Wiasak to clock 4:18.659, behind the Americans' 4:17.722.

The women's first round and final will be held on Thursday.

The Australian women teams pursuit squad went to Rio with legitimate medal claims, but a training crash cruelled their chances and they were devastated with fifth.

It was one of several dramas that plagued the Australian cycling team at last year's Games.

As the British dominated, the Australian cyclists only managed a silver at Rio in the men's team pursuit and a record-breaking bronze medal for Anna Meares in the keirin.

Meares' post-Olympics retirement headlines the new era for the national track cycling squad, with British coach Simon Jones also the new Cycling Australia performance director.

Jones is making his debut in the role at the worlds.

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