21/02/2011 - Rarely a week goes by in the sport of cycling where there isn’t something that captivates you.
This weekend it was an incredible finish to the UCI World Cup Men’s Keirin final featuring our own Eddie Dawkins. Big Eddie was powering to the finish and looking good for the silver medal, behind the legendary Sir Chris Hoy when some carnage behind him brought down all but two of the final field. Despite fighting hard, Dawkins couldn’t stay upright after having his rear wheel clipped and he hit the track hard at 70kph. But you can’t keep a southern man down and he somehow picked himself up and ran (or perhaps more accurately limped), dragging his bike, down the straight to the finish line. Ultimately he was given fifth place, but there is no doubt that in terms of guts and determination, it was a gold-medal winning performance. If you visit www.cyclingsouth.org.nz you can see video footage of the dramatic final stages of the race.
Eddie now has a lot less skin on his right shoulder than when he started the final so it may not be a comfortable flight home, but he has proved why you should be buying your tickets to the National Track Champs which start this Friday in Invercargill. You just never know what will happen.
The performance of the NZ team in Manchester over the past three days has again shown the depth growing at an Elite level and has provided the perfect lead-in to the RaboDirect-sponsored Nationals this week at the ILT Velodrome.
Over 280 riders and over 80 team officials from the 11 cycling centres around New Zealand will descend on Invercargill at week’s end. When you add in family members and supporters you get a sense of the input this event has to the local economy. Here are some more numbers for you; eight days of racing, each with day and evening sessions; 92 national titles to be decided across 14 age groups; over 50 event volunteers per session and close to 4000 volunteer hours to deliver these championships. Makes me tired simply thinking about it.
The Southland team got together on Friday night, to lay out preparations for its defence of the National Points Shield. It is certainly the largest squad we have put together and each of our 75 riders has earned their spot on merit. The more heartening news is that it is also the best-prepared team we have ever put out. There’s a great feeling in the squad and even though there are some high profile names among them, the focus is on team performance. You can look through every age group from juniors to masters to elites and know our province will be well-served.
There’s no doubt home track advantage plays its part and the bigger the crowd and better the atmosphere, the faster they ride.
So that’s where we all come in. Grab your tickets. If you don’t, as Eddie again proved yesterday morning, you will more than likely miss something special.
Nick Jeffrey is Chief Executive of Cycling Southland