I really struggled to know how to approach this week’s column.
Should I focus on another brilliant team performance by the Cycling Southland squad at the 2012 Age Group Track Nationals? Perhaps I could try and crank up a bit of inter-sport debate on whether Southland’s track cycling domination has ever been replicated by another Southland sports team? I’ve been there and done that over the last two years though.
Maybe I could write about the five successive Points Shield victories and compare that to other great eras in Southland sport?
Perhaps I could single out some of the individual stars - Erin Criglington, Jacqui Dearlove and Bruce Jones’ record breaking deeds or the return or Michael Culling after a good chunk of the last year away from the sport?
I could look at the Under 19s and how Tom Beadle, Liam Aitcheson, Sophie Williamson, Kate Dunlevey and others advanced their chances of gaining Junior Worlds selection. I could easily wax lyrical on the work of their team mates including Tom Vessey, Josh Haggerty, Jenn Muhl and Georgia Timpany in assisting their medal-winning causes.
I could easily discuss the incredible and humbling input we receive from our officials and volunteers. We raced for more than 25 hours over 4 days and our army of volunteers helped deliver the smoothest event you could ever hope to host, all without asking for a thing in return.
I could consider going in to sales mode (wouldn’t be the first time in this column) to drum up ticket sales for Junior Worlds – event passes are on sale now, by the way – comparing the drama we watched unfold over this week to what we can expect from internationals in August.
I was tempted to discuss the incredible talent coming through the ranks and how promising that is for the future. But instead I’m going to let you in on one small story which I think encapsulates all that was great about the week.
Tom Sexton rode his Under 15 Points race heat really well. He got stuck in early and got enough points to look as though he would comfortably qualify. Then he was brought down in a crash eight laps from the finish.
Racing rules allow for a rider to re-enter the race after an incident like this but they have to do so before the last five laps of a race. Sexton, bounced up, ignored the pain and rode the last five laps on basically one leg, after one racing shoe broke and wouldn’t clip back in. He avoided getting lapped by the field (which would have seen him lose his points) and duly made the final.
It epitomized the courage and determination which were hallmarks of the Southland effort. You can’t coach that but Southland’s riders have it and it’s a major reason the squad made it five in a row this week. To every one of our Elite and Age Group squad members go my thanks and congratulations. You performed magnificently and should be very proud. We are.
Nick Jeffrey is Cycling Southland's Chief Executive