Corbin Strong was able to live out his childhood dream of standing on top of a podium with the New Zealand national anthem playing after clinching the country’s record-equaling sixth gold medal in cycling at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.
The 22-year-old Southlander was the first across the finish line in the men’s 15km scratch race at the Lee Valley VeloPark in London on Monday (NZT) after being superbly led out by team-mate Campbell Stewart during a frenetic end to an otherwise cagey and tactical 60-lap race.
Strongly looked certain to win a medal in his debut race after getting in the decisive three-man breakaway with Scotland’s John Archibald and Wales’ Will Roberts with 25 laps to go.
With riders from the same three countries controlling the main group, Strong, Archibald and Roberts were able to gain a lap on everyone else and it was down to the three escapees to duel it out for the podium places.
Stewart and George Jackson sacrificed their own personal ambitions to help Strong finish ahead of Archibald, who took silver, and Roberts, who took bronze, once the trio took a lap on the rest of the field.
“It’s a dream really,” Strong told Sky Sport. “It was the perfect race for me. It was pretty cagey, lots of attacks going.
“George and Campbell also raced really well. It was just an awesome experience actually. I’m really happy to be at my first Comm Games and for my debut race to finish like this is pretty awesome.
“I remember in primary school, dreaming of a moment when they’d play the national anthem, and for me it was representing my country on a stage like this.”
Strong fought back from a broken spine to become world champion in the points race in 2020 and he represented New Zealand in the madison at last year’s Tokyo Olympic, but his year has consisted mainly of road racing after signing a WorldTour deal with Chris Froome’s Israel Premier Tech at the end of 2021.
With that in mind, he said his tactic for the 15km scratch race had been to ride aggressively from the start, and that paid off when he made his way into the only successful breakaway.
“That was my game plan coming in actually,” Strong told Sky Sport.
“I’ve come off the road, I might not have as good as track legs as some other people, so I really wanted to race aggressive and take it from the start and really make it a hard race.
“I thought that was going to play into my strengths at the moment and that’s the way it panned out.
“I was lucky to be off the front with a couple of strong guys from Wales and Scotland, so I’ll thank them as well, for making it a hard race.”
By claiming a sixth gold medal in cycling, New Zealand has already matched the sport’s best-ever haul from Glasgow in 2014, having done so after just three days of competition.
Ellesse Andrews, already a double gold medalist in the women’s sprint and team sprint events, will be looking to continue the gold rush when she lines up in her favorite event, the keirin on Tuesday (NZT).
Strong’s gold was the only medal won by New Zealand at Lee Valley VeloPark on Monday after Rebecca Petch narrowly missed out on a bronze in the women’s 500m time trial.
The national BMX champion who has turned her hand to the track was sitting third until Australia’s Kristina Clonan, the last of 20 riders to race, not only went faster than Petch’s 33.843 seconds but blitzed her way to gold.
Despite having three riders poised in the top 10, New Zealand could not bring home a medal in the women’s points race. Michaela Drummond was the highest finisher in fifth while Bryony Botha was eighth and Emily Shearman ninth.
Botha was part of a group of five which grabbed a key lap advantage after 30 of the 100-lap race, but another quintet did the same soon after to make it a tightly-packed leaderboard.None of the three New Zealand men’s sprinters got past the last 16
Defending champion Sam Webster paid the penalty for being just the 16th fastest in qualifying, setting him up for a last-16 ride-off against world and Commonwealth record-holder Nicholas Paul of Trinidad and Tobago.Webster had won individual and team sprint gold at Glasgow 2014 and Gold Coast 2018.