Date: Friday, 12 February 2016

VANTAGE ELITE AND U19 TRACK NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS – DAY 3 WRAP

Former omnium world champion Aaron Gate sparked a return to form with an inspirational ride on the penultimate night of finals at the Vantage New Zealand Track Cycling Championships in Cambridge.

Gate, 25, continually attacked throughout the exhausting 40km points race, lapping the field twice on the way to an impressive victory.

Waikato’s Raquel Sheath put her hand up for higher honours with a strong performance to win the women’s 10km scratch race.

Sheath, 21, who won the points race on the second day, sprinted clear on the final lap to claim the honours in an impressive performance from Southland’s Kirstie James and Auckland’s Nina Wollaston.

Sprint ace Natasha Hansen made it three from three with another dominating display to win the women’s keirin with daylight second, following wins in the 500m time trial and sprint.

The men’s battle went down to the wire with the world champion time trial champion Matt Archibald prevailing in a photo finish ahead of London Olympic keirin medallist Simon van Velthooven in a key encounter.

It was the time for the endurance riders to shine as they push towards higher honours with selection to the world championships to be made on Monday.

Gate, who has focussed on the omnium in recent years, was delighted with his performance to win his favourite points race which is the crucial part of the six-discipline omnium competition.

“To get a win in the points race is pretty important to me because it remains my favourite individual event. It is the key event in the omnium so if you can have a good one it gives confidence looking ahead to the worlds and the Olympics if I am selected.”

The Auckland rider has also returned to the team pursuit squad and believes that could be his ultimate goal for the Rio Olympics.

“I can’t think of anything better than to win a gold medal at the Olympics with your best mates in a team event. That is now my main priority and it’s been great to be back in there. It’s cut-throat though with 10 guys going for four spots.”

The pace was on from the start of the 120 lap points race, with half the field gone by halfway and only nine riders left with 20 laps remaining.

Gate lapped the field twice and attacked repeatedly with only Waikato road convert Ryan Wills able to go with him. The 2009 world champion took out the title with 61 points from Wills with 50 and world team pursuit champion Pieter Bulling third on 24 points.

Sheath, who won the points race on the second day, was prominent throughout the women’s 10km scratch race, but saved her best until last when she attacked with two laps remaining to claim the victory from Kirstie James (Southland) and Nina Wollaston (Auckland).

“I just wanted to race my heart out this week and it worked out to be gold which is awesome. I couldn’t ask for more,” Sheath said.

“I am focussing on team pursuit now with the aim of the Olympics which is the big goal. This is just a stepping stone along the way. Hopefully these performances will get my name in the book a little bit higher.”

The keirin competition was a battle of opposites. Hansen was in a class of her own to smoke all opposition to claim the women’s honours.

But it needed a camera-call to separate the men. Archibald got the best start to earn the prized spot behind the durny motorbike in the keirin final.

Van Velthooven made a big push with two laps remaining. He forced his way to the lead at the bell and held on into the final straight but Archibald timed his run to perfection to nab the win on the line.

In Under-19 action, world champion Campbell Stewart produced an outstanding performance to win the 20km points race. The 17-year-old from Palmerston North, who won the individual pursuit last night, had just completed back-to-back finals of the individual sprint, losing to Southland ace Bradly Knipe, before venturing out on to the track for the points race.

He made his move late in the race to claim two key sprints to win on 34 points from Auckland’s Connor Brown on 29 and Hayden Strong on 26.

Knipe added his third title in three days with victory in the individual sprint, following wins in the 1000m time trial and keirin.

Southland’s Emma Cumming defending her sprint title in two straight rides over Auckland’s Olivia Ray, after also winning the keirin on the second day.

Auckland’s Georgia Danford took out the women’s points race over 15kms on countback from Southland’s Nicole Shields with Manawatu’s Michaela Drummond third just one point adrift.

Earlier world champions Emma Foy and pilot Laura Thompson were close to their sea level best to win the Para-Cycling tandem 3000m pursuit in 3:32.276.

Day 3, results:

Women’s keirin first round: Heat 1: Katie Schofield (Otago) 1; Lisa Hunkin (Wellington) 2; Hannah Bayard (Auckland) 3. Heat 2: Natasha Hansen (Southland) 1; Jaymie King (Waikato BOP) 2; Tess Young (Waikato BOP) 3. Heat 3: Olivia Podmore (Canterbury) 1; Stephanie McKenzie (Southland) 2; Hannah Latta (Wellington) 3.Repecharge: Heat 1: Bayard 1, Payne 2, Latta 3. Heat 2: Young 1, Dunn 2, Bryant 3. Semifinal: Heat 1: Podmore 1, Bayard 2, Schofield 3. Heat 2: Hansen 1, McKenzie 2, Payne 3. Final: Hansen 1, Schofield 2, Bayard 3.

Men’s keirin first round: Heat 1: Ben Stewart (Southland) 1; Simon Van Velthooven (West Coast North Island) 2; Fabian Wybrow (Southland) 3. Heat 2: Matt Archibald (Southland) 1; Sam Dakin (Auckland) 2; Daniel Rafferty (Canterbury) 3. Heat 3: Jeremy Presbury (Southland) 1; Zac Williams (Auckland) 2; Jordan Castle (West Coast North Island) 3. Repecharge: Heat 1: Castle 1, Wybrow 2, Eccles 3. Heat 2: Rafferty 1, Cuff 2, Jones 3. Semifinal: Heat 1: Presbury 1, Stewart 2, Castle 3. Heat 2: Van Velthooven 1, Archibald 2, Williams 3. Final: Archibald 1, Van Velthooven 2, Williams 3.

Women 10k scratch race: Racquel Sheath (Waikato BOP) 1, Kirstie James (Southland) 2, Nina Wollaston (Auckland) 3.

Men 30k points race final: Aaron Gate (Auckland) 61 points, 1; Ryan Willis (Waikato BOP) 50, 2; Pieter Bulling (Southland) 24, 3.

Under-19s:

Women 15k points race final: Georgia Danford (Auckland) 13 points, 1; Nicole Shields (Southland) 13, 2; Michaela Drummond (West Coast North Island) 12, 3.

Men 20k points race final: Campbell Stewart (West Coast North Island) 34 points, 1; Connor Brown (Auckland) 29, 2; Hayden Strong (Southland) 26, 3.

Women sprint final, bronze medal race: Libby Arbuckle (West Coast North Island) bt Olivia Reiber (Canterbury) 2-0. Gold medal race: Emma Cumming (Southland) bt Olivia Ray (Auckland) 2-0.

Men sprint final, bronze medal ride: Hamish Beadle (Southland) bt Jackson Ogle (Canterbury) 2-0. Gold medal race: Bradly Knipe (Southland) bt Campbell Stewart (West Coast North Island) 2-0.

Para-Cycling: Women tandem 3000m individual pursuit final: Emma Foy (Northland) - Laura Thompson (Southland) 3.32.276, 1; Amanda Cameron (Wellington) - Hannah Van Kampen (East Coast North Island) 3.45.022, 2.

Details: www.cyclingnewzealand.nz

CAPTION: Simon van Velthooven (right) and Matt Archibald fight out for honours in the keirin final at the Avantidrome in Cambridge today.

Photo courtesy Dianne Manson

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