The unheralded fast starters had their chance to shine on the final day of action at the RaboDirect Track National Championships in Invercargill.
Auckland’s Ethan Mitchell and Dunedin’s Katie Schofield showed their ability to burst out of the blocks, a vital part of BikeNZ’s team sprint hopes, as they grabbed national titles in impressive fashion on the super-fast boards at the Cycling Southland Velodrome.
Mitchell recorded a world-class time of 17.610 to secure himself the national title, in what was a stunning show by the BikeNZ High Performance sprint squad that saw the national record lowered four times.
“I’m really happy with Ethan’s rides, especially with him being able to back up the rides in a short period. That is something that is very important with the Olympic programme the way it is,” said BikeNZ Sprint Coach Justin Grace.
“We know that with the conditions here that 17.6s is good. Ethan is consistently inside the top six in the world. I am very comfortable with where we are right now and it’s an indicator of how fast he will be able to go when he is at his peak.”
Sam Webster (Auckland) was the first to lower the existing one lap standing start record of 18.413 seconds in qualifying. His effort was then eclipsed by both Eddie Dawkins (Southland) and Mitchell (Auckland), with Mitchell’s 17.645 placing him as the fastest qualifier.
Mitchell faced upcoming sprint star Matt Archibald (Southland) in the final, with the former junior world champion laying it all on the line to post a world-class time of 17.610. Dawkins beat Webster in the ride for the bronze medal.
“One of the good things is that the other guys are also starting better. We have never had other riders inside the 17 second mark before, so to have three there shows that they are all stepping up accordingly.”
Schofield was the fastest of the women sprinters in the 250m standing start, clocking a 19.594 to lower the national record in qualifying. The Otago rider faced team sprint partner Natasha Hansen (Southland) in the final, with Schofield showing her starting skills to claim her first national title.
Hansen, who has been in stunning form, again showed her class with a convincing win in the women’s keirin, taking the title by four bike lengths. This adds to the team sprint, 500m time trial and sprint championship honours with two new national records in the process.
Hansen and Schofield have proved that the recent investment by BikeNZ in a women’s sprint programme is paying dividends as they edge towards their Olympic dream.
“We set some targets that we thought were achievable with a bit of hard work,” said Grace. “We gave this pair a lot of tools that they needed to achieve those targets. They have grabbed those tools and done the hard work, and have more than exceeded the expectations that we put on them.”
The pair are hoping their form will earn then selection for the London World cup, when the team is named tomorrow, as they continue a late bid for Olympic qualification.
“I think the women are capable of getting the points that they need to qualify for London from a placings perspective, but what we can’t control is the other teams,” said Grace.
“If they are making increases in parallel with us, it’s going to make the road very tough. However I don’t think that the teams that are threats to us will be making the same advances. The threat is what the other teams are doing. But we can only control what we are doing and do our best to get those points.”
Keirin specialist Simon van Velthooven (Feilding) defended his 2011 national keirin title in an exciting race when he timed his move to perfection on the penultimate lap and held off Dawkins and Archibald for the win.
The Waikato Bay of Plenty quartet of Sam Bewley, Scott Creighton, Peter Latham and Hayden McCormick blitzed the men’s field in the team pursuit. After qualifying fastest, the team caught their Canterbury rivals with four laps to go.
Aaron Gate (Auckland) was a worthy winner of the scratch race with an aggressive performance throughout the 15 km race. Gate was involved in two early breaks but his defining move came with three laps to go when he put the hammer down to open a 100m lead which he held to the end. Patrick Jones (Otago) won the bunch sprint for second ahead of Alex Frame (Christchurch).
Joanne Kiesanowski (Christchurch) continued her dominance in the mass-start events with a sprint finish to win the women’s 10km scratch race to add to the points race title she won last night.
Young-guns Dylan Kennett (Christchurch) and Hayden McCormick (Te Awamutu) upstaged Beijing Olympians to win the spectacular 40km Madison. The 18-year-old pair rode a smart race to collect points early by winning the first three sprints before putting a lap on the field which sealed their win.
Oceania champions Jason Allen and Tom Scully collected the most points but had to settle for second as they could not make up the lap needed to propel them into the lead. Defending national champions Aaron Gate and Myron Simpson, and Beijing Olympians Sam Bewley and Marc Ryan were active in the race but were outclassed by the junior pairing.
The team for this month’s UCI World Cup in London, which is the official Olympic test event, will be named tomorrow.
Women 250m Standing Lap, qualifying: Katie Schofield (Otago) 19.594 (NZ record), 1; Natasha Hansen (Southland) 20.218, 2; Steph McKenzie (Southland), 20.384, 3; Vanessa Quin (Auckland) 21.353, 4.
Final: Schofield 19.754, 1; Hansen 20.073, 2; McKenzie 20.392, 3.
Men 250m Standing Lap, qualifying: Ethan Mitchell (Auckland), 17.645, 1; Matt Archibald (Southland), 17.928, 2; Eddie Dawkins (Southland), 18.095, 3; Sam Webster (Auckland), 18.345, 4.
Final: Mitchell 17.610 (NZ record), 1; Archibald 18.008, 2; Dawkins 17.982, 3.
Women 3000m Team Pursuit, qualifying: Southland (Sequoia Cooper, Kylie Young, Sarah Tomlinson) 3.39.067, 1; Auckland (Ashleigh James, Alexandra Neems, Georgia Williams) 3.41.245, 2.
Final: Southland 3.34.834, 1; Auckland 3.35.994, 2.
Men 4000m Team Pursuit, qualifying: Waikato Bay of Plenty (Sam Bewley, Scott Creighton, Peter Latham, Hayden McCormick) 4.15.185, 1; Canterbury (Will Bowman, Tayla Harrison, Dylan Kennett, Hamish Schreurs) 4.22.061, 2; Southland (Pieter Bulling, Regan Sheath, Hamish Tomlinson, Brad Tuhi), 4.22.728, 3; Composite (Denay Cottam, Lee Evans, Matiu Kaihau, Josh Haggerty), 4.23.551, 4.
Final: Waikato Bay of Plenty 1; Canterbury 2, (caught); Composit, 3.55.569, 3.
Women keirin: Heat 1: Hansen 1; Elizabeth Steel, (Canterbury) 2; Henrietta Mitchell (Auckland) 3.
Heat 2: Hannah Latta (Otago) 1; Quin 2; McKenzie 3.
Final: Hansen 1; Steel 2; Mitchell 3.
Men Keirin: Heat 1: Dawkins 1; Archibald 2; Willie Trew (Southland) 3.
Heat 2: Simon van Velthooven (Feilding) 1; Webster 2; Regan Sheath (Southland) 3.
Final: Van Velthooven 1; Dawkins 2; Archibald 3.
Men 15km Scratch: Aaron Gate (Auckland, 17.25.529, 1; Patrick Jones (Otago) 2; Alex Frame (Canterbury) 3.
Women 10km Scratch: Joanne Kiesanowski (Canterbury) 12.44.446, 1; Kat Jones (Otago) 2; Gemma Dudley (West Coast North Island, 3.
Men’s Madison, 40km: Dylan Kennett and Hayden McCormick, 1 lap, 22pts, 1; Jason Allen and Tom Scully 27 pts, 2; Aaron and Myron Simpson 21 pts, 3.