Another week, another major cycling event in Southland writes Cycling Southland CEO Nick Jeffrey.
This time it is the turn of those track cyclists at either end of the age spectrum to descend on Invercargill for the RaboDirect Age Group National Championships.
214 riders from 11 cycling centres will pedal their hearts out in 105 sprint and endurance events for both teams and individuals over four days, eight sessions and more than 25 hours of racing. 56 sets of medals will be handed out across 11 different age categories; Under 15 Boys and Girls, Under 17 Boys and Girls, Under 19 Boys and Girls, Masters Men (35-44, 45-54, 55+) and Masters Women (35-44, 45+.) Throw in more than 50 event volunteers and 75 team officials and you can get an idea of what a major sporting event the Age Group Champs is.
Competition should be intense, particularly in the Under 19 category with the spectre of the UCI Juniors World Track Championships in Invercargill later in the year looming large. These championships represent the final piece in the selection puzzle for the New Zealand squad. After last year’s record setting performance at the Worlds in Moscow and on the evidence of what we have seen from the class of 2012 at November’s Oceania Championships and the Under 19 Omnium earlier this month, the home country is gearing up for a strong challenge for some of the shiny stuff when the medals are handed out in August.
Southland’s Sophie Williamson and Dylan Kennett of Canterbury both return as two-time defending champions, titles they won last year in their first year as U19 riders last year. Likewise, Southland’s Michael Culling won three golds last year in this first appearance as an Under 17 and he is looking to time his return to the track after an injury-riddled 2011 with a strong showing this week alongside a near capacity and hugely talented bunch of boys. West Coast North Island’s Kate Stewart announced herself as the fastest Under 17 girl in the country 12 months ago at just 15 years of age and also returns as a two-time national champ.
The Under 15 Boys should is also likely to provide some great racing. West Coast North Island’s Campbell Stewart returns to Invercargill with looking to add to the two golds he picked up in 2011, but will face stiff opposition from Southland’s Josh Carpenter and Hamish Beadle among others.
Old riders don’t retire. They turn up every year and smash themselves (and others) at the Age Group Champs. Southland’s Erin Criglington and Jacq Dearlove have been unbeaten in the Masters Women events over the past two years and their times have been world class, up with the fastest recorded for their age groups in the world.
So if you want to get an idea of what this track cycling lark is all about before the world comes to ride in August, come join us from Wednesday to Saturday this week with sessions starting daily at 10am and 6pm at Stadium Southland Velodrome.
Nick Jeffrey is Cycling Southland's CEO