New Zealand sprint cyclists dream of Olympic glory after world gold

New Zealand's Ed Dawkins (left) and Ethan Mitchell celebrate winning gold in the men's team sprint at the 2017 Track Cycling World Championships in Hong Kong on April 12, 2017

New Zealand's team sprint trio allowed themselves to dream of an elusive Olympic gold medal after they underlined their dominance at the Track Cycling World Championships on Wednesday.

Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster and Ed Dawkins made it two world titles in a row and three in four years with a flawless performance at the Hong Kong Velodrome.

The Kiwis were denied Olympic glory last year in Rio by a British team which is now on hiatus, but they were worthy champions in Hong Kong as they qualified fastest for the final and beat the Netherlands by 0.333sec.

"We just want it more than everyone else," said a jubilant Dawkins. "We've been the same three guys in the same order for the last eight years.

"We know each other so well we can fight as hard as we can and still have perfect technique. That's what we have over the rest of the world.

"We are not physically better riders. We have the same bikes thereabout. But as a team as a unit we perform better."

After world titles in 2014, 2016 and 2017, as well as Olympic silver last year, one goal is now paramount for the team -- victory at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

"(Tokyo) is in the back of our minds all the time, every race," Dawkins said.

"We race every race 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."

He added: "(Olympic gold) is the only thing that we haven't won... Winning in Tokyo would be icing on an awesome career."

- Victory in 'last two metres' -

France took bronze with victory over Poland while in the women's race, Russia's Daria Shmeleva and Anastasia Voynova also won their second straight title when they beat Australia.

For the Russian pair, it was a redemptive win after they only won last year's title when the Chinese team were disqualified on a technicality.

"This final was very important for us because this time we beat the team," Voynova said.

"Last time in the world championships, the Chinese riders were relegated and that's why we became the world champions. But this year, it's our own victory."

Earlier, Italy's Rachele Barbieri grabbed her maiden world trophy and the first gold medal of the championships with a furious final sprint to win the women's 10km scratch race.

The 20-year-old left it ultra-late before she caught Elinor Barker on the line following a last-lap break for victory by the British Olympic team pursuit gold-medallist.

Barbieri, the European under-23 champion, was left to celebrate her first major title, while Belgium's Jolien D'Hoore took bronze.

Barbieri, Barker and D'Hoore had been among a group of six, also including 2015 champion Kirsten Wild and America's Sarah Hammer, who surged forward after the halfway point.

"I can't even believe it," Barbieri said. "My coaches said to me to follow the strongest riders... I don't believe it. In the last two metres I won."

Canada's men were an early casualty in the team pursuit when all four riders crashed heavily and limped from the track during their qualifying heat against New Zealand.

Australia, who flirted with the world record in qualifying, were fastest into Thursday's final where they will face New Zealand.