21/02/2011 - Track cycling is arguably the most exciting of all cycling codes. Whirling around a tight 250 metre track at speeds of over 60 kilometres an hour there is skill, spills, speed and strategy.
The RaboDirect Elite Track National Championships is a showcase of New Zealand’s track cycling talent. It is undeniable that New Zealand is one of the bigger contenders on the international track scene and that our riders are world class.
The three days of the Elite events will see teammates become rivals as the BikeNZ Track Squad squabble for the national titles. They will be joined by the other top track cyclists in the country. With two intensive sessions a day the racing replicates any international track event.
With the change in the Olympic program riders will be looking to impress in the omnium, the newest Olympic event. In the absence of some of his fellow BikeNZ representatives who are on international duty, Southland’s Tom Scully will be looking to continue the strong form he showed in the event in Beijing earlier in the year.
The sprinters will take on each other as they fight for the national titles. Eddie Dawkins is the local hero and will be the crowd favourite but titles will be hard to pick with Dawkins, Sam Webster, Simon van Velthooven and Ethan Mitchell all challenging each other. With these riders training and racing together regularly they know each other’s racing style and tactics so this will make for a very interesting and highly tactical sprint round.
The RaboDirect Age Group Track National Championships is an inspiring event to attend. From under 15 years old competing at their first national event to over 70 riders still challenging for the titles it confirms that cycling really is for everyone.
The junior racing is sure to unearth the names to watch in the future. At the 2010 championship, Stephanie McKenzie and Henrietta Mitchell set an unofficial world record time in the team sprint. They were selected to represent New Zealand at the UCI Junior Track World Championships before stepping up to the elite level. As a selection event for the junior world championship team, the young riders are eager to impress.
The 2011 event sees an increase in masters events, hoping to attract more masters to the racing and make the racing more competitive for all involved. On the cards for the masters is a full program of racing; scratch race, points race, individual pursuit, time trial, team sprint and team pursuit.
National records fall each year at these championships, across all age groups. Seconds are shaved off each year as riders go faster and faster. For riders it is an accomplshment to know that they have done the fastest time in the country for that distance.
For many riders this is their first chance to race at the slick ILT Velodrome, New Zealand’s only indoor velodrome. This world class tract, which is going to host the 2012 UCI Junior Tract World Championships, makes for consistent fast racing. The weather plays no role in the event, where inside the track it is always hot, and the racing is even hotter.