31/01/2011 - Another full week for the southern cycling fraternity as Cycling Southland hosted the annual McLeay Jewellers Southland Track Champs. Close on one hundred riders from Southland and Central Otago, along with some travellers from points further north, made the ILT Velodrome their home over three days this week, looking to impress selectors and build up to the National Track Championships at the end of next month.
Naturally there were some stand-out performers from familiar names who are making their presence felt on the national stage; Piet Bulling, Matt Archibald, Steph McKenzie, Sophie Williamson, Michael Culling, Tom Beadle, Sequoia Cooper, Kylie Young, Lee Evans - all talented athletes with wonderful careers ahead of them.
There were also other names added to that list. Laura Heywood would have to go close to being the star turn of the week. Having only taken up the sport little more than 18 months ago, she is showing massive potential and is unquestionably one to watch.
Some of the best results (as usual) came from our Masters categories. I have written before about the growth of our sport amongst the age-group loosely described as middle-aged. If you wanted proof, the Southland Champs provided it. Michael White, Erin Criglinton, Jacq Dearlove, Neil Familton, Richard Eade, Simon Lusk and the ever-green Ray Robinson all had gold (or in many cases golds) draped around their necks. Our Masters cyclists are one of the major reasons the National Points Shield has been under lock and key at the ILT Velodrome for the last three years. Watching the action on the weekend, our “more mature” riders will again be Southland’s trump card in 2011.
And of course there were other great stories; Peter Grandiek, competing at 79 years of age and off to do the same at the Masters Games in Wanganui over coming weeks. And little Madeleine Gough was doing the same at the age of just 10. Any sport that features a 69 year span between its youngest and oldest competitor must be in great heart.
We were also blessed to host some of the country’s top Para-Cyclists, building up for their tilt at medals at the World Champs in Italy in March. Their efforts are truly inspiring but it is obvious they are not just content with their significant victory in simply making it to the start-line. They are focused on performance and on winning.
With such a wealth of talent, it is likely the selectors will this week name the largest ever squad to compete at the upcoming Nationals. The RaboDirect-sponsored Elite Champs, which will also include Southland’s national representatives Eddie Dawkins, Tom Scully, Natasha Hansen and Cameron Karwowski, run from February 25th to 27th. We then have a solitary day off before we get straight into the Age Group Champs from March 1st to 5th.
And to finish the week, a quick congratulations to Cam Karwowski and Hamish Tomlinson for their top 20 finishes at the Tour of Wellington - brilliant efforts in a tough event.
Nick Jeffrey is the Chief Executive of Cycling Southland