Olympic cycling sprinter Natasha Hansen has returned to action in style in Europe today.
The 22 year old returned to the sprint team base in Germany to finish runner-up in the keirin at the Grand Prix meet in Cottbus.
She flew back to Europe after spending a week in New Zealand following the passing of close friend Nicola Stock, who was the sister of her coach Jerard Stock.
BikeNZ women’s sprint coach Stu MacDonald said she came up against a classy field the day after her return to Europe.
Hansen was forced to the repechage before producing a strong performance in the final.
“In retrospect it was a benefit to go through repechage as it gave Natasha another competitive hitout because she missed the sprint events on the previous day having only just flown back in.”
Team reserve Katie Schofield finished ninth while Auckland teenager Paige Paterson was 10th in the keirin, with the 17 year old gaining valuable race preparation ahead of next month’s UCI Juniors World Championships in Invercargill.
They had their first competitive racing on the outdoor 333m concrete track with last year’s multi-world junior championship medallist Steph McKenzie, the Southland-based Counties Manukau rider, leading the way on 11.78s, Schofield 11.81s and Paterson 11.92s.
World champion Anna Meares won the sprint competition two straight in the final.
“I'm pleased with how all of the girls raced this weekend,” said MacDonald. “They have learned a massive amount and raced against some of the best sprinters in the world and it’s a great confidence boost for Natasha as she finalises her build up to the Olympics.”
They will compete again this weekend.