The eyes of the top track cyclists around the world are currently firmly set on the upcoming Track World Cup events, with the world championships looming soon after. An evening exhibition event wasn’t high on the priorities, but the riders all looked keen to push each other and put on a show for the crowd.
Sprint world champion Matt Glaetzer was surprised by the size of the turnout that turned up to the event in comparison to other events around Australia.
“This is definitely up there,” Glaetzer said. “Commonwealth Games for sure, that will be hard to beat for a long time, we’ve never had a crowd this big in the Superdome… since I can remember.
“The Tour Down Under is on, and it’s great for cycling as a whole to see what the track talent has to offer their country.
Commonwealth gold medalist Stephanie Morton was impressive on the night showing herself to be the best of the sprinters, winning the Gary West medal as the best female rider on the night. Despite the night of racing operating as an exhibition, the competitive hackles were raised for the sprint star.
“We just can’t help ourselves,” Morton said. “I was wondering how I was going to go tonight, it was a big training day. But I saw Kaarle do her moto 200 and do a 9.9. I went ‘all right, all right, I see what we’re doing here’. I got angry and it was good, we’ve got that competitive spirit going on.
“I think everyone here is a bit like that. We don’t get here without being competitive, I say the same thing when board games come out.”
Morton had the largest cheers of the night reserved for her by the parochial South Australian crowd, but the international stars in Elia Viviani, Omnium gold medalist, and Michael Morkov, former track world champion, were on the receiving end of warm applause for their efforts.
Sam Welsford was the best of the endurance stars on show, winning the eliminator race in dramatic fashion after squaring off against the international pair as the final trio left in the race.
“I raced Vivaini last month in Berlin and he’s really a class act, an Olympic champion,” said Welsford. “It’s awesome to go toe-to-toe with those guys in your own backyard”
Welsford echoed Glaetzer’s comments about the support of the fans, and drew parallels with the positive atmosphere that had been brought to the city by the Tour Down Under and the party atmosphere around it.
“Adelaide is so packed with cyclists right now,” said Welsford. “All the pros go out on bunch rides, all the fans can get on the back and say gday to the guys that they see on TV.”
“I love Adelaide at this time of year, it’s one of the best places I reckon.”
The one sour point of the evening came during the men’s keirin, where a crash took out the entire field bar Glaetzer. None looked serious hurt from the fall, many had skin off, but most came back to race in the later events with only Pat Constable sitting out after sustaining a head knock.
Young sprinter Matt Richardson of Western Australia came back and beat Glaetzer one-on-one in the sprint later in the evening and while showing significant pain from the lingering effects of the crash it was probably the most impressive win of the evening.
With four of the five riders that crashed heading off to World Cup events in the coming weeks, it was far from the ideal preparation for the highly-tuned athletes.
“It’s the worse case scenario,” said Glaetzer of the crash. “It doesn’t take much for that to happen, just a touch of wheels at the wrong stage at those speeds and you’re gone. They’re a tough group of lads and I’m sure they’ll back up strong.”