If we weren’t excited about Invercargill hosting the 2012 UCI Juniors Track World Championships in August, we are now.
This weekend has seen the first event held at the London Olympic Velodrome and much like our pride and joy in Southland, it has proved to be lightening fast right from the opening gun. World records have fallen and the action and atmosphere has been incredible and that’s what has got us fizzing at the prospect of the year ahead.
April’s World Elite Championships and July’s Olympics will whet our appetites and then the cycling world’s eyes will turn to the Stadium Southland Velodrome. Watching the TV coverage from London via the internet over the past few days has shown the huge lift the Great Britain team has received from a partisan home crowd. Riders like the legendary Sir Chris Hoy, Ben Swift and the GB Team Sprint and Team Pursuit combinations have all been lifted to wins by the packed London supporters. That’s the opportunity we have in August.
The Southlanders in action over the last few days have again distinguished themselves. Natasha Hansen has taken further steps towards the prize of Olympic qualification with new personal bests in the Women’s Sprint and Team Sprint with Otago’s Katie Schofield. Hansen qualified seventh in the Sprint, just 0.3 seconds behind the top qualifier and was desperately unlucky not to make the final eight, with a photo required to separate her and Australia’s Kaarle McCulloch.
That outstanding individual performance came on the back of an eighth place in the Team Sprint on Friday night. The southern pair took 0.3 seconds off their previous best and broke the 34 second barrier for the first time. Most importantly they were significantly ahead of key opponents Venezuela and Colombia who are also battling for Olympic qualification.
Eddie Dawkins continued his hot form from Nationals anchoring the Men’s Team Sprint combination to another new low time of 44.002 on the opening day of competition for fifth overall – just 0.15 seconds off the ride for the medals. Both Hansen and Dawkins were in action overnight in the Women’s Keirin and Men’s Sprint respectively.
Closer to home the final Southland team for the National Age Group Track Championships has been named ahead of the final track event of the domestic season. Whilst the Elite Championships feature the big names, the Age Groups this year take on greater importance with Junior Worlds now just six months away. The top Under 19 talent has one last opportunity to impress the selectors when action starts next Wednesday (29th) as well as the best Under-17, Under-15 and Masters talents from around the country.
With over 250 riders from around the country it is the perfect dry-run for Junior Worlds – for us as an event organiser and you as a spectator. And as an unashamed bribe we will also be dishing out tickets to the World champs each night of Age Group competition.
So get along and get roaring for the locals. London has shown us the way.
Nick Jeffrey is Chief Executive of Cycling Southland. For more from Nick's Training Wheels columns, click here.