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Andrews makes winning return to track

Ellesse Andrews UCI Track Nations Cup
Ellesse Andrews won the women's keirin at the UCI Track Nations Cup in Canada. PHOTO: SWPIX

New Zealand sprint cyclist Ellesse Andrews made a strong return from injury to win the keirin and finish runner-up in the individual sprint at the UCI Track Nations Cup in Canada.

It was the first competition for the keirin world champion following a shoulder injury from a fall during the opening Nations Cup in Adelaide in early February.

Andrews made the trek to Milton, British Columbia, in search of much-needed competition as she returns to full training in preparation for the Paris Olympics.

On Saturday (Sunday NZ Time), the 24-year-old qualified seventh in the sprint before beating Belgian Julie Nicholaes in the first round; Frenchwoman Taky Kouame in the second; local Canadian star Lauriane Genest in the quarterfinal in two rides and Dutch former world championship medallist Hetty van de Wouw in the deciding third ride in the semifinal.

Andrews was beaten in two rides in the sprint final by 2022 world champion Frenchwoman Mathilde Gros.

Ellesse Andrews UCI Track Nations Cup
Ellesse Andrews powered to victory in the keirin in her competitive return to the track. PHOTO: SWPIX

On Sunday (Monday NZT), Andrews, sporting the world champion’s rainbow stripes in the keirin, was forced into the repechage to progress, and qualified for the final after finishing third in her semifinal race.

Andrews showed her class in the final, pushing to an early lead from the back before being overtaken with a lap-and-a-half remaining. The Kiwi pushed back to reclaim the lead down the back straight on the final lap, and had too much speed for Dutch rider Steffie van der Peet in the sprint finish.

“It was Ellesse’s first keirin ride since November last year. With her crash and six weeks out, we did not really know what to expect this weekend. To come away with a win was really reassuring and such a great confidence-builder with Paris three and a half months away,” said coach Jon Andrews.

Ellesse Andrews UCI Track Nations Cup
Ellesse Andrews had to battle through the repechage route to reach the keirin final. PHOTO: SWPIX

“It was never in the original plan to come here. It was super important to be here to get some racing under her belt and to get some confidence back. It does shake you after a crash and Ellesse is no different.

“It was hugely beneficial to be here to get some racing and build some confidence back.

“We return tomorrow and straight back into training. Ellesse is in good shape but has lost time with her injuries and we have a lot of work to do. Ellesse is now super motivated to get back to where she should be and to really challenge as hard as she can for Paris.”

The New Zealand track team for the Paris Olympics is expected to be named late next month.


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