Young Kiwi sprint stars Sam Webster and Stephanie McKenzie defended their sprint titles in emphatic fashion on the second night of finals at the Track Cycling National Championships in Cambridge tonight.
Webster, 22, a member of the world champion team sprint, and McKenzie, 20, won in two straight rides over Eddie Dawkins and Natasha Hansen respectively at the new Avantidrome.
Both riders hope their performances tonight will push them into strong contention for selection to July’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow when the track nominations are made later this month.
The big crowd were entertained by some aggressive riding today, completed with a hard fought win by Alexandra’s Sophie Williamson over her fellow BikeNZ High Performance teammates Lauren Ellis and Jaime Nielsen in the points race.
Former world omnium champion Aaron Gate did all the hard work in the men’s scratch race but while the big guns covered each other, it was Otago’s Brad Evans who took the chance to sprint off the front to grab the upset win.
Earlier in the day Webster and Dawkins went within a blink of becoming the first riders under the magical 10 second barrier in sprint qualifying on the new track.
Dawkins, who became the first New Zealander under the mark in this country late last year at Invercargill, went 10.080s in his qualifying but defending champion Webster edged him with a 10.066s to claim top spot.
Webster proved too classy for van Velthooven in two straight rides in the semifinal but Dawkins needed to produce a powerful early kick to catch out Southland’s matt Archibald in the third race decider.
Webster (Auckland) showed his tactical nous to push from the front and come from behind in his two wins over his world champion teammate Dawkins in the final.
“I am pretty happy with how it went seeing we have come off the world championships,” Webster said. “My speed was around the same as last year and tactical I was a bit above good but you can always improve there.
“It was good to put the tactics to work when we are under fatigue because that is what wins big races.
“I am pleased to defend my title and this puts me in good stead for Commonwealth Games selection as well.”
McKenzie (Southland), the 250m time trial winner, topped qualifiers in the women in 11.405s ahead of defending champion Hansen (Southland), Paige Paterson (Auckland) and 500m time trial winner Katie Schofield (Otago).
Both Mckenzie and Hansen went through the semifinals in two straight rides, but it was the younger McKenzie who was able to repeat the result from last year in the final.
“You put a little bit more pressure on yourself defending a title so that was really pleasing,” McKenzie, who has recently moved to Cambridge under the new centralised training system.
“I am really enjoying the move and it’s a bit too early to judge but I think I have a lot more development to give. With the whole BikeNZ system now I am really going to use it and I think it is going to be really, really effective for me.
“My short term goal is to make the team for Glasgow and I hope tonight’s win will help that.”
In the under-19 honours, Palmerston North’s Jordan Castle and Waipukurau’s Regan Gough produced impressive displays to win the men’s keirin and individual pursuit titles respectively.
In the women’s division Olivia Podmore from Christchurch continued on her winning ways with victory in the keirin and a superb final lap effort to claim the scratch race, while an equally classy Bryony Botha (Auckland) claimed the individual pursuit gold.
Elite, women’s sprint semifinal: Stephanie McKenzie (Southland) bt Katie Schofield (Otago) 2-0; Natasha Hansen (Southland) bt Paige Paterson (Auckland) 2-0.
Final: McKenzie bt Hansen 2-0. 3rd-4th: Schofield bt Paterson (walkover).
Men sprint semifinals: Sam Webster (Auckland) bt Simon van Velthooven (WCNI) 2-0; Dawkins bt Archibald 2-1. Final: Webster bt Dawkins 2-0. 3rd-4th: Van Velthooven bt Archibald 2-1.
Women 20km Points Race: Sophie Williamson (Southland) 18 points, 1; Lauren Ellis (Mid South Canterbury) 17, 2; Jaime Nielsen (Waikato BOP) 16, 3.
Men 15km Scratch Race: Brad Evans (Otago) 1, Dylan Kennett (Mid South Canterbury) 2, Patrick Bevin (Waikato BOP) 3.
Men Keirin semifinal 1: Jordan Castle (WCNI) 1, Samuel Dakin (Auckland) 2, Sam Buckner (Canterbury) 3. Semi 2: Michael Culling (Southland) 1, Reon Sheath (ECNI) 2, Cameron Ford (Tasman) 3. Final: Castle 1, Culling 2, Dakin 3.
Women Keirin semifinals: Tessa Jenkins (Canterbury) 1, Samantha Croft (Auckland) 2, Alice Grubb (Canterbury) 3. Semi 2: Olivia Podmore (Canterbury) 1, Sarah Ownsworth (Canterbury) 2, Shannon Grinter (Waikato BOP) 3. Final: Podmore 1, Jenkins 2, Grinter 3.
Women 2000m Individual Pursuit, Gold Medal ride: Bryony Botha (Auckland) 2:28.367, 1; Holly White (Auckland) 2:31.469, 2. Bronze medal ride: Holly Edmondston (Canterbury) 2:31.714, 3; Laura Heywood (Southland) 2:33.467, 4.
Men 3000m Individual Pursuit, Gold medal ride: Regan Gough (ECNI) 3:20.409, 1; Jack Ford (Mid South Canterbury) 3:26.734, 2. 3rd-4th: Luke Mudgway (ECNI) 3:28.773, 3; Lachlan McGregor (Otago) 3:29.915, 4.
Women 7.5km Scratch: Podmore (Canterbury) 1, Holly White (Auckland) 2, Lyndia Rippon (Northland) 3.
CAPTION: Stephanie Mckenzie celebrates her victory in the individual sprint at the Track National Championships in Cambridge.
Image courtesy Dianne Manson.