HONG KONG — Russia and New Zealand won the first gold medals at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships on Wednesday.
The top-ranked Russian women’s team of Anastasia Voinova and Daria Shemeleva won their second world title in the team sprint.
“We worked hard to win today,” Shemeleva said, speaking through a translator.
The Australian team of Kaarle Mcculloch and Stephanie Morton took silver and Miriam Welte and Kristina Vogel of Germany got bronze at the Hong Kong Veledrome.
The New Zealand men’s team of Ethan Mitchel, Sam Webster and Edward Dawkins – the Olympic silver medalists – retained their sprint title. The Netherlands finished in second and France won bronze.
After losing out on the Olympic gold last year in Rio de Janeiro, the Kiwis are already looking ahead to 2020.
“Tokyo is always in the back of our mind,” Dawkins said. “Every race is a mini Tokyo. Every race is as if we were there putting ourselves under the same amount of pressure. So when it comes down to racing on that day we’re not overwhelmed by it.”
In the women’s 10-kilometer scratch race, top-ranked Rachele Barbieri of Italy won gold. Elinor Barker of Britain was second, followed by Jolien D’hoore of Belgium in third.
LIEGE, Belgium (AP) Spaniard Alejandro Valverde dedicated his win at the Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic on Sunday to Italian cyclist Michele Scarponi, who died after a collision with a van while training on Saturday at the age of 37.
Valverde caught Irishman Dan Martin about 200 meters (yards) from the end and comfortably beat him in a sprint to the line. Polish rider Michal Kwiatkowski finished in third place, crossing three seconds behind them on the 258-kilometer (160-mile) route.
Valverde is one of the best classics riders in cycling history and his latest win comes four days after winning the Fleche Wallonne (Walloon Arrow) for a record fifth time. Martin was second in that race as well, which was also run over hilly terrain.
Valverde, who turns 37 on Tuesday, has also secured victories at the Tour of Andalusia, Tour of Basque Country and Tour of Catalonia this season. His win at Liege-Bastogne-Liege equaled Italian Moreno Argentin’s tally and is one behind Belgian great Eddy Merckx’s record.
But Valverde’s mind was far away from his own achievements.
“My first words are to dedicate this victory to Michele Scarponi, who was a great friend of mine,” a tearful Valverde said. “My prize money will go to his family.”
A minute’s applause for Scarponi, the Giro d’Italia winner in 2011, was held prior to the start of the race.
HUY, Belgium (AP) Alejandro Valverde of Spain won the Fleche Wallonne (Walloon Arrow) for a record fifth time after a fourth straight title in the Belgian classic on Wednesday.
Valverde continued his excellent form with an attack that was unanswered by his rivals 250 meters from the finish in the brutal Mur de Huy, one of cycling’s most difficult climbs.
Daniel Martin of Ireland was second and Dylan Teuns of Belgium completed the podium.
Valverde, who will turn 37 next week, last year became the first rider to win the Fleche Wallonne four times. He also won the race in 2006, 2014 and 2015.
The Spanish rider has been enjoying a great start to the season with victories at the Tour of Andalusia, Tour of Basque Country and Tour of Catalonia.
The Mur de Huy has a 26 percent gradient at its steepest point, and Valverde knows it perfectly. Right from the start of the climb, he remained well-positioned at the front and waited for the right time to surge ahead with a few hundred meters left.
The major spring classics end with Sunday’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege race. Valverde will be among the favorites, having already won it three times. The race is run over similarly hilly terrain in southern Belgium.