Cycling New Zealand high performance director Martin Barras rates this week’s Oceania track cycling championships a success and a great form guide ahead of selection for the impending World Cup season.
“A selection headache is if you don’t have the right people to put onto a team. If you have too many to choose from that’s a good problem to have. Right now we have a few of those good problems to solve,” Barras said as four days of competitive racing at the SIT Zero Fees Velodrome in Invercargill came to a close.
“For us it’s been a success, there’s no doubt about that. There’s two main things I’m looking at; how we handle ourselves in the pits – how the team operates off the track – and how the team operates on the track, and it’s been satisfying on both accounts.”
Barras’ highlights included the stunning elite women’s keirin victory by rising star Ellesse Andrews, the promise shown by the men’s development team pursuit and a best-ever ride by the men’s team sprint combination of Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster and Eddie Dawkins.
“We have performance benchmarks that have been put in place and we monitor with High Performance Sport NZ. I’m not going to kid you and say that everything is on track, but we use a red, yellow and green system and by and large most of the lights at the moment are green,” Barras said.
“To start the final run into the Olympics in the position we are in at the moment is a good omen.”
Vantage New Zealand elite team star, Sam Webster added the Oceania keirin crown to the team and individual titles he won earlier in the week, edging out Eddie Dawkins and Jordan Castle for a New Zealand trifecta.
“I’ve never won the (Oceania) keirin before, I think I’ve only medalled twice before in 11 attempts,” Webster said.
“It’s nice to knock that one off and nice to do it from the front. It’s the way that I do like to ride and it’s a show of strength and a bit of confidence with the three World Cups coming up late November and mid-December.”
New Zealand’s Olivia Podmore produced two great finishes to knock Australian Kaarle McCulloch out in the semifinals of the elite women’s individual sprint, but couldn’t account for team sprint world champion Stephanie Morton.
The Australian, recovering from knee surgery following last year’s world championships, knew she would get a good test of her form against Podmore.
“Liv’s going extremely well at the minute, her race pace is phenomenal,” Morton said.
“Off the back of knee surgery backing up is pretty tough so I just wanted to go out there and get the set up right and then whatever happened at the end happened, so to get the win, I’m really happy.”
The Australian combination of Amy Cure and Alexandra Manly dominated the elite women’s 30km Madison ahead of the New Zealand combination of Michaela Drummond and Jessie Hodges.
The men’s race over 40km was a different proposition, with Australia’s Kelland O’Brien and Sam Welsford taking the gold medal. After leading throughout, Welsford banked the win with victory in the double points final lap.
The Vantage New Zealand combination of Tom Sexton and omnium world champion Campbell Stewart did well to stay in contention and eventually take the silver medal after Sexton crashed with 108 of the 160 laps to go. Fellow teammates Regan Gough and Jordan Kerby, riding for the Southern Spars trade team, combined for the bronze medal after putting a lap on the field to challenge for the title.
In junior racing, Australia’s Daniel Barber was a comfortable winner in the under 19 men’s keirin, with compatriot Kalinda Robinson taking out the junior women’s sprint.
Double world junior champion Laurence Pithie from Christchurch capped a superb week by lapping the field to win the junior men’s 10km scratch race.
Barras was pleased with the return to the Invercargill velodrome, his first time back in Southland since the 2007 Oceania championships when he was with the Australian team.
“I remember at the time we were saying this is a world class venue. You don’t have to go much further than the times that were realised here, the level of performances that were being achieved, to understand that this is a world class venue.”
The riders will now await final selection and preparations for the upcoming UCI World Cup, highlighted by the fourth round of the series at Cambridge on 6-8 December.