Date: Monday, 11 February 2013
Posted by: Cycling Southland

Last week's Elite and U19 Track nationals held at Invercargill's Stadium Southland Velodrome was another outstanding success.

Great racing, great crowds and the great atmosphere which has become a hallmark of the velodrome over recent years, all added up to four great days of racing. Another seven national records fell by the wayside as New Zealand's elite track cyclists continue to raise the bar, year-by-year.

During my days in radio and in my brief sports administration career since, I have been lucky enough to attend plenty of spectacular sporting events but, all biases aside, what I saw last Saturday night will live in my memory for a long time.

Watching Simon van Velthooven, Eddie Dawkins, Matt Archibald and Sam Webster take the final bend four-wide at 70 kilometres an hour in the Men's Keirin  was nothing short of breath-taking. There are plenty of folk who have seen a lot more bike racing than I who rated that final as one of the best they'd seen - a truly world class field, putting on a great show as they hunted down a national title and, perhaps just as importantly, bragging rights over their mates for 12 months.

Southlanders again performed with distinction but now know they have the tough task to retain the National Points Shield with Auckland holding a narrow lead on the Points Table after the first Championships. The shield is awarded at the conclusion of the Age Group Championships which start later this month and it will come down to our squad of junior and masters riders to determine whether the Shield stays in Invercargill for a sixth-successive year.

The good news for Southland is that we have seen the last of Aaron Gate and Simon van Velthooven these championships - their dominance last week a major factor in Auckland's five point lead.

Steph McKenzie continued her rapid recent development, earning her first elite national title in the women's sprint while Natasha Hansen finished strongly to claim a dominant keirin win and lowered both her national 200m record before smashing the Team Sprint mark with McKenzie. Matt Archibald also continued to stake a claim for consistent higher honours and was undoubtedly the unlucky party in the selection for the World Championships, missing out on joining mate Eddie Dawkins in the five-man squad by virtue of Aaron Gate's four gold medals which gave the selectors no option but to take him to ride the endurance events in Minsk.

One of the success of the championship was the inclusion of the Under 19 events alongside the Elite programme. Jeremy Presbury, Liam Aitcheson, Josh Haggerty and Laura Heywood are all good chances at gaining Junior Worlds' selection after the Age Group Champs.

The Age Groups feature, Under-15 and Under 17 grades as well as the Masters age categories and the Elite and Under-19 Omniums. It starts on the night of Tuesday 26 February and then features two sessions per day until Saturday 2 March. Should be a great climax to another huge track season.

Nick Jeffrey is Cycling Southland's Chief Executive

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