Date: Tuesday, 05 March 2013
Posted by: Cycling Southland

OPINION: The curtain came down on the track cycling season on Saturday night as Cycling Southland's hosting of the 2013 Age Group Track Nationals proved another outstanding success.

At the end of five great days of competition there is plenty to reflect on. It may surprise that my favourite moment occurred away from the track. Believe it or not the thing I remember fondly is the Southland team photo shoot. Our Cycling Southland squad of 68 riders, spanning seven decades, standing together in team colours, along with our large support crew who put so much into another successful Southland campaign is a pretty impressive sight.

For the sixth successive year, the National Points Shield will spend the year at Stadium Southland Velodrome after Southland finished the two track championships with a 140 point tally, 40 clear of Auckland.

Of all the myriad of events we deliver throughout the course of the year, the age group champs are one of my favourites. It's the mix of riders that I enjoy seeing on display. You have the wily veterans in the masters, the boundless enthusiasm and "give-everything-a-go" attitude of the juniors and, in between, the under-17s who are now starting to select the type of races that suit their talents.

This year also included the addition of the under-19 and elite women's omniums and Laura Heywood's gold and Josh Haggerty's silver medal in the under-19 were brilliant performances.

Glasgow may be calling later in the year, for the Junior World Track Cycling Championships, with the pair's form over recent weeks pushing their cases for selection, and both are chances to join Liam Aitcheson and Jeremy Presbury in the squad.

Yet again, the brilliant efforts by Southland's masters men and women masters proved one of the key differences in the Points Shield battle and a number of this contingent have their eyes on Manchester for the World Masters Championships. Given that, Eddie Dawkins' brilliant silver medal winning ride at the World Championships and Dawkins and Matt Archibald's Mexico World Cup medals in January, 2013 is shaping as perhaps the most successful year yet in international competition.

Trying to pick out individual performances from an event like the age groups is fraught with danger. There is no shortage of worthy results, the danger is in leaving out a notable effort. I think I am safe to mention a young fellow from Palmerston North, though. Campbell Stewart won all four under-15 gold medals at last year's championships and this year he added six golds and a silver medal.

Yes, you did read that right. He won the under-17 boys' sprint, individual pursuit, points race, scratch race, team pursuit and team sprint golds. Perhaps Waikato's Lewis Eccles should be named rider of the championship for being the only rider to beat Stewart into second place in the under- 17 boys' time trial.

A massive thanks to all those who helped last week. Now, let's go road racing.

‚óŹ Nick Jeffery is Cycling Southland's chief executive.

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