Welsford Lauded by Rival Following Thrilling IP Win

Cycling | Published: Mon 5 February 2018

Western Australia’s Sam Welsford conquered reigning world and national champion Jordan Kerby in front of a raucous Brisbane home-crowd as he made a strong statement in reclaiming the individual pursuit crown at the Track Nationals.


In one of the fastest and most nail-biting men’s pursuit finals ever seen at national championships, Welsford’s 4min 14.189secs backed up his scorching 4:15 qualifying time which was a five second personal best.


"I still can’t believe it,” said a shocked Welsford, a dual world champion and Olympic silver medallist in the team format. "I went into the final against Kerby, the world champion, with nothing to lose as kind of the underdog.


"I just went out there and took the race to him for the whole race, it came down to the last two laps I think. I just had enough to hold on so I’m over the moon.”


Kerby scorched the cooler afternoon qualifying conditions with a time of 4mins 13.154secs, just one second outside of his 2017 World Championship time (4mins 12.172sec) in Hong Kong. In an earlier qualifying ride, Welsford cruised to the final in 4mins 15.886secs.


In the evening’s title fight, the pair kept the packed crowd on its feet as Welsford took the early three-tenths of a second advantage after the first kilometre.


The Perth cyclist maintained the margin through to the halfway mark before Kerby channelled the crowd and the rainbow jersey on his shoulders in the third kilometre to move within one-tenth of a second of his opponent.


Sensing the challenge, Welsford lifted over the final few laps to put an end to the comeback.


"The home crowd was all behind Kerby, I had to use that energy for myself,” Welsford said. "But I’d picture a bit was for me and it was really loud from both sides because it was so close to the end, so I think the crowd lifted for both of us in the final laps.”


The result was even more remarkable for Welsford considering he last took to the track for an individual pursuit two years ago in Adelaide when he rode the national title.


"I haven’t done much individual pursuiting since then, it’s good to line up and get the win,” added Welsford, who is targeting his maiden Commonwealth Games team selection. "I kind of just went into this race to see how my IP was going and whether that was a possibility for the Commonwealth Games.


"I’m stoked for where it’s going right now and I think I am headed in the right direction, and if I am selected to the Games, I hope I’ll be able to do something even faster.”


For Kerby, there were no excuses, only praise for his Australian Cycling Team mate.


"You can never, ever underestimate Sam Welsford,” he said. "I’ll tell you what, he’s the most talented track rider of our generation and I knew he was going to come out guns blazing tonight and truth be told he was just too strong and too good for me.


"We were neck and neck for a while there, then the last six laps he just broke me, it’s as simple as that.”


In the all Victorian battle for bronze, nineteen-year-old 2017 World Championship bronze medallist Kelland O’Brien (4:19.660) survived a late comeback by Leigh Howard (4:19.987).


Welsford’s success in the individual pursuit, came after he had stepped up into the men’s team sprint, where the endurance rider helped Western Australia to a silver medal behind South Australia.


Riding with first year senior Matt Richardson and Luke Zaccaria, WA were outgunned in the medal round, with SA overcoming a first lap deficit to claim national honours in 44.035secs over WA’s 44.5959).


South Australia was represented by Matthew Glaetzer, Pat Constable and Thomas Clarke.


Photo credit:Con Chronis