Southland cycling may have ventured north for the first time but it did nothing to diminish their success at the BikeNZ Track Cycling National Championships that finished at the new Avantidrome in Cambridge today.
The Southlanders picked up wins tonight in the team sprint national titles for men, women and men’s under-19 as the province that has developed so much since the development of the SIT Zero Fees Velodrome at Invercargill, claimed the overall points shield.
Leading the way for the Southland team was 20 year old sprinter Steph McKenzie who picked up her fourth title in the team sprint with Olympian Natasha Hansen to go with earlier wins in the 250m time trial, sprint and keirin.
She was quick to praise the new centralised training system in Cambridge for her improvement.
“I’ve only been here three months but I feel it is already benefitting me a lot,” McKenzie said. “I think I have improved already and look forward to a lot more improvement in the future.”
She hopes her performances this week will be enough to earn a nomination for July’s Commonwealth Games.
“That is my short term goal. Four titles and a second placing was more than I could have hoped for and I hope it signals that I really want to be in the team for Glasgow.”
Big Southland sprinter Eddie Dawkins was thrilled with the performance of his province.
“I might be based here in Cambridge but I am always a Southlander and it’s been a great week,” Dawkins said.
“The team has done so well, and even tonight in the team sprint, my teammates did all the hard work that allowed me to finish it off.”
Southland prevailed in the battle of the team sprint, with each of their team – Jeremy Presbury, Matt Archibald and Dawkins faster in their respective laps over the Auckland trio of Zac Williams, Ethan Mitchell and Sam Webster.
Dawkins especially was on fire as Southland clocked a world class 44.700s for the 750m, winning by a healthy margin of 0.7s.
“For Sam, Ethan and myself it was a thrill to be able to compete in our rainbow jerseys as world champions. The crowds here this week and this place is fantastic.”
He said he is looking forward to a two week break before resetting his sights on Glasgow.
The fourth title in a memorable week for McKenzie was somewhat of an anticlimax when a mechanical on her bike forced a re-run. The Waikato Bay of Plenty pair of Jaime Neilsen and Racquel Sheath had their original time stand, with the Southland pairing of Mckenzie and Natasha Hansen re-running on their own with a superb time of 34.801, half a second outside the national record, more than enough for an emphatic victory.
McKenzie flatted and snapped the front axle on her bike and without a spare, they loaned one from world champion Ethan Mitchell.
The classy Mid South Canterbury combination, including world championship medallists Marc Ryan and Dylan Kennett along with Olympian Shane Archbold and Andrew van der Heyden took out the 4000m team pursuit then they caught the Southland combination with three laps to go.
It was a similarly dominant display by the Waikato Bay of Plenty quartet of Neilsen, Rushlee Buchanan, Racquel Sheath and Phillipa Sutton proved too powerful, catching Southland with just over a lap left, much to the delight of the large local crowd.
Canterbury 16 year old Olivia Podmore made it five national titles for the meet when she paired with Holly Edmondston to win the under-19 team sprint final over the team from West Coast North Island. She won the under-19 sprint, keirin, time trial, scratch race and team sprint to highlight her undoubted potential.
The international pairing of Archbold and Kennett backed up to provide a fitting finale to a successful championships with an emphatic victory in the spectacular 40km Madison, finishing on 31 points ahead of the composite team super talented Patrick Bevin (Taupo) and young gun Regan Gough (Waipukurau).
Men’s 4000m Team Pursuit, Gold Medal: Mid South Canterbury (Shane Archbold, Dylan Kennett, Andrew van der Heyden, Marc Ryan) 1; Southland (Liam Aitcheson, Joshua Haggerty, Cameron Karwowski, Hamish Tomlinson) caught, 2. Bronze medal: Auckland (Jonathan Hailstone, Nick Bain, Ben Park, Sam Lindsay) 4:04.272, 3; Canterbury (Hamish Schreurs, Adam Bull, Max Jones, Daniel Newmann) 4:04.449, 4.
Women 500m Team Sprint, gold medal: Southland (Natasha Hansen, Stephanie McKenzie) 34.801, 1; Waikato Bay of Plenty (Racquel Sheath, Jaime Nielsen) 36.697, 2. Bronze Medal: Canterbury (Elizabeth Steel, Victoria Steel) 37.108, 3; Otago Elyse Fraser, Katie Schofield) 37.599, 4.
Men 750m Team Sprint, Gold Medal: Southland (Matt Archibald, Eddie Dawkins, Jeremy Presbury) 44.700, 1; Auckland (Sam Webster, Ethan Mitchell, Zac Williams) 45.421, 2. Bronze Medal: Southland 2 (Karl Watson, Ben Stewart, Fabian Wybrow) 47.328, 3; Composite (Daniel Rafferty MSC, Andrew Ward CTB, Greg Potter AKL) 48.675, 4.
Women 4000m Team Pursuit, Gold Medal: Waikato Bay of Plenty (Jaime Nielsen, Racquel Sheath, Phillipa Sutton, Rushlee Buchanan) 1; Southland (Sophie Williamson, Sequoia Cooper, Laura Heywood, Kirstie James) caught, 2. Bronze Medal: Composite (Georgia Williams AKL, Julia Tarbotton MSC, Makayla Smith SLD, Ruby Perry WCN) 4:41.351, 3; Auckland (Bryony Botha, Holly White, Samantha Croft, Nina Wollaston) 4:58.352, 4.
Madison 40km: Mid South Canterbury (Dylan Kennett, Shane Archbold) 31 points, 1; Composite 2 (Patrick Bevin, Regan Gough) 18, 2; Southland (Liam Aitcheson, Cam Karwowski) 16, 3.
Women 500m Team Sprint, gold medal: Canterbury (Olivia Podmore, Holly Edmondston) 37.202, 1; West Coast North Island (Ruby Perry, Kate Stewart) 37.775, 2. Bronze medal: Auckland 2 (Holly White, Nina Wollaston) 37.925, 3; Auckland 1 (Bryony Botha, Samantha Croft) 38.350, 4.
Men 750m Team Sprint, Gold medal: Southland (Michael Culling, Nicholas Kergozou, Anton O’Connell) 47.997, 1; East Coast North Island (Ryan Berney, Luke Mudgway, Reon Sheath) 48.781, 2; Bronze Medal: West Coast North Island (Jordan Castle, James Cuff, Joshua Kendall) 49.566, 3; Canterbury (Sam Buckner, Max Jones, Rhys Jones) 49.949, 4.
CAPTION: Eddie Dawkins, sporting the rainbow skinsuit as world champion, celebrates victory for his Southland in the men’s team sprint on the final night of BikeNZ Track Cycling National Championships at the Avantidrome in Cambridge.
Image courtesy Dianne Manson