The track cycling season begins in earnest this week with a record 17-strong Southland contingent lining up at the Oceania Track Cycling Championships in Adelaide starting Wednesday.
Ten riders will start in New Zealand’s Elite and Under-19 squads while a further seven will ride in Cycling Southland colours over the four day championships which alternate between Australia and Invercargill annually.
As usual, we have had a pretty good view of preparations, outside our office window on Stadium Southland Velodrome and with scaled-back international campaigns scheduled for New Zealand’s track programme this season, the Oceania championships represent one of a limited number of opportunities for riders to impress.
As discussed in this column last week, with a new Olympic cycle beginning post-London, much interest will focus on the next wave of talent stepping into the Elite ranks and at how some of the experienced campaigners will back-up after the Olympics. Southland has riders in both categories.
Eddie Dawkins has quickly become one of the most experienced members of the elite squad and I have little doubt that the big fella will relish any extra leadership responsibility. He’ll have his good mate Matt Archibald alongside him who has certainly found strong training form over the last couple of weeks and will be wanting to send a clear message to the selectors that he is worthy of a world championship ride in February. Natasha Hansen will be hoping she can replicate her form from twelve months ago when she claimed three Oceania titles and a silver from her four starts.
The endurance squad features Sequoia Cooper who will have renewed focus with the strong possibility the Women’s team pursuit will move from three to four riders in Rio in 2016 along with Cameron Karwowski and Pieter Bulling who have both come off impressive European summers and strong PowerNet Tour of Southlands.
The Under-19 New Zealand squad is an early indication of those in the running for trips to Glasgow next August for the 2013 World Juniors. Jeremy Presbury will likely be one of the first names written down after his to fourth placings this year in Invercargill. He will take on the Super-Drome in Adelaide along with Josh Haggerty and first year Under-19s Mike Culling and Laura Heywood.
Meanwhile a further seven riders will wear the Southland skin-suit in Adelaide - Aimee Burns, Steph McKenzie, Bradley Tuhi, Matt Dodds, Karl Watson, first year under-19 Nick Kergozou and a returning Lee Evans who rode last year for Wellington where he is attending university. Of these, McKenzie looms as the strong contender for possible podium finish, showing some excellent training form over recent weeks.
The 2013 Oceania Track Championships in Adelaide begin Wednesday and conclude Saturday. On a local front the next key event is the Southland Track Championships to be held from Friday 7 to Sunday 9 December while the annual ILT New Year Track Carnival will be held on January 18th and 19th, leading in to the Elite and U19 National Championships starting January 31.
Nick Jeffrey is the Chief Executive of Cycling Southland