The best in the business of track cycling are in the south (yet again) this week for the RaboDirect Elite Track Nationals from Saturday to Monday. Southland has a proud recent record having lifted the National Points Shield as the top Centre in the country in 2008 and successfully repelling all-comers every year since.
My blatant pitch to get you to come for a look isn’t a hard sell because 2012 will be something special for two main reasons.
One is the Olympics. BikeNZ will name its squad to travel to the UCI World Cup in London next month following the Champs. This, by most experts’ estimations, will be a shadow Olympic squad with those selected having a large advantage over their mates when the seats to the Games are dished out.
Much interest surrounds whether the Women’s Sprinters can continue their last minute drive for qualification. Southland’s Natasha Hansen is the corner-stone of their meteoric rise and thanks to the mystical world of UCI and Olympic qualification, they need to rely on results off-shore (most notably Venezeula at the Pan-American Games) to determine whether they get a trip to Mother England in July. All they can control however is going as fast as they can (something Tarsh has excelled at over the last two years) so expect that to continue this weekend.
The Men’s Sprint is just as fascinating. No issues around qualification for the blokes – the only issue is that four doesn’t go in to three. Simon van Velthooven is putting all sorts of pressure on the incumbent Team Sprint combination of Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster and Southland’s own Eddie Dawkins. Nationals will pit this foursome against each other, with Cycling Southland’s Matt Archibald right in the mix, and the result should be some spectacular viewing.
And just for good measure, the Men’s Endurance racing this weekend will also have a big say in the final make-up of the Men’s Team Pursuit combination. With Jesse Sergent off-shore riding for his Pro-Tour road team and assured of one spot in the four-man squad, it comes down to a battle for the other three places between a host of riders including the experienced Marc Ryan, Sam Bewley, Peter Latham (fresh from individual gold in Beijing), Westley Gough and the young comer Aaron Gate. Again the maths just don’t work and the decision will be one of toughest calls. The winner will be those of us lucky to watch it play out this weekend at the Velodrome.
The other reason this year will hold more interest than usual is the small matter of the UCI Juniors Track World Championships in Southland in August. This weekend’s champs will also feature the Under 19 Men and Women Omniums. Six events all rolled in to one – with the top performers likely to be back south in August, representing their country in front of a home crowd at a World Championship.
High motivation for all of them to perform. High motivation for you to attend.