Amid the showdown between some of the world’s best track cyclists from New Zealand and Australia, a 21 year old from Manawatu thrust himself centre stage on the final day of the UCI Oceania Track Championships in Cambridge. Jordan Castle, a member of the Vantage NZ Elite Team, upset more fancied rivals to win over a world class field in the exciting keirin final at the Avantidrome.
And the evening finished with a brilliant display by former junior world championship medallists Campbell Stewart and Tom Sexton, both still teenagers, who claimed the super-exciting 40km elite men’s madison race.
It highlighted a level of competition that has delighted Cycling New Zealand with the form of their riders, both established and emerging, at the UCI Oceania Championships. Riders with recent World Cup competition competed at top level while those starting their international season also impressed and importantly a bevy of burgeoning talent emerged from both the under-19 males and females.
There were nine New Zealand All Comers records set during the four days of competition, with four of those to Kiwi riders or teams. New Cycling New Zealand High Performance Director, Martin Barras, was impressed with the quality of the riding and the centralised facility after arriving in Cambridge this week. “The facility is top notch. It is great for training, for the staff and with all the other services offered here, it is among the very best facilities I have ever seen,” said Barras. “From a competition perspective we all recognise that this has been a very good tournament with a high level of performance.
“From a programme perspective it reinforces my opinion and that of the rest of the world, that the class of this organisation is top notch. I don’t think the Kiwis understand just how good this programme and the organisation is.
“It is going to be my job to pull this programme together and get everyone to realise this. All my former friends from Australia are saying the same thing, so I am excited about the challenge ahead.”
Castle, fresh from two World Cup competitions in Europe with the Vantage New Zealand team, beat off a world class field, overtaking Sam Webster on the final turn and holding off Australia’s former junior world champion Jacob Schmidt and world championship medallist Eddie Dawkins for the victory.
Dawkins and Webster were the first to congratulate the fast-improving young sprinter, who had to come through the repechage to make the semifinal where he was second behind Schmidt, and reverse that in the final. “It’s not sunk in. It feels like I have been working towards this for a while so it’s pretty exciting,” Castle said. “I got lucky drawing six behind Sam (Webster) because he one of the fastest and strongest so it was fantastic to grab his wheel and hang on to the finish. It is just so cool to be out there with everyone, racing that fast. I love it. Keirins are amazing.”
Castle said his recent experience, particularly at the Manchester World Cup last week when he was called in to ride the keirin, was invaluable. “I learned so much from racing at that level. I was stoked to bring some of those learnings back and put them into play here because it is not a learning unless you act on it.
“So what does this mean now? That there’s a whole lot more hard work on the way.”
Stewart, a multi junior world champion, and Sexton are part of the Vantage elite men’s endurance squad, and produced a superb second half of the Madison, controlling the points haul with a level of speed and nous that belied their years.
They won five of the final six sprints, available every 10 laps, to finish with 74 points ahead of the Australian combination of Kelland O’Brien and Rohan Wight on 64 and South Australia’s Cooper Sayers and Josh Harrison on 55.
The women’s sprint honours went to world champion silver medallist Stephanie Morton in two straight rides in the best-of-three final over fellow Australian Kaarle McCulloch, with Natasha Hansen claiming third in the Kiwi ride-off against Olivia Podmore.
In under-19 action McKenzie Milne pair with Emily Paters won the women’s Madison for the Waikato BOP team, while George Jackson (Waikato) and Corbin Strong (Southland) prevailed in the men’s Madison. Strong lived true to his name with a series of powerful performances to win the four-race omnium with Jackson second, and the 3000m individual pursuit.
Together they were too strong winning on 37 points from Australia’s Zachary Marshall and Matthew Rice with the New Zealand pairing of Finn Fisher-Black and Kiaan Watts third. The under-19 keirin went to Thomas Cornish ahead of Zachary Marshall, both from New South Wales.
The New Zealand team will be named on Friday to compete in the next two UCI World Cup competitions in Canada and Chile, leaving on Sunday.
Women sprint qualifying: Stephanie Morton (AUS) 10.654, 1 (All Comers Record); Kaarle McCulloch (AUS) 10.908, 2; Natasha Hansen (N ZL) 10.997, 3; Olivia Podmore (NZL) 11.097, 4; Holly Takos (AUS) 11.125, 5; Emma Cumming (NZL) 11.159, 6; Caitlin Ward (South Australia) 11.205, 7l Tess Young (Waikato BOP) 11.452, 8.
Quarterfinal: Morton bt Young 2-0, McCulloch bt Warn 2-0, Hansen bt Cumming 2-0, Podmore bt Takos 2-0. Semifinal: Morton bt Podmore 2-0, McCulloch bt Hansen 2-0. Gold Medal: Morton bt McCulloch 2-0. Bronze Medal: Hansen bt Podmore 2-0.
Men Keirin qualifiers: Heat 1 Matthew Glaetzer (AUS) 1, Bradly Knipe (Southland) 2. Heat 2 Jacob Schmid (AUS) 1, Eddie Dawkins (NZL) 2. Heat 3: Patrick Constable (AUS) 1, Thomas Clarke (South Australia) 2. Heat 4: Sam Webster (NZL) 1, Nathan Hart (AUS) 2. Repechage qualifiers: Zac Williams (NZL), Braeden Dean (Victoria), Jordan Castle (WCNI), Dan Rafferty (Western Australia).
Semifinal 1: Webster 1, Dawkins 2, Clarke 3. Semifinal 2: Schmid 1, Castle 2, Constable 3. Final: Castle 1, Schmid 2, Dawkins 3.
Women 20km Madison: Tasmania (Chloe Moran, Danielle McKinnirey) 34 points, 1; South Australia (Maeve Plouffe) 23, 2; New Zealand (Rushlee Buchanan, Racquel Sheath) 21, 3.
Men 40km Madison: New Zealand (Campbell Stewart, Tom Sexton) 74 points, 1; Australia (Kelland O’Brien, Rohan Wight) 64, 2; South Australia (Cooper Sayers, Josh Harrison) 55, 3.
Women Scratch 7.5km: McKenzie Milne (NZL), Ally Wollaston (NZL) 2, Shaane Fulton (NZL) 3.
Men 15km Points race: George Jackson (Waikato BOP) 15 points, 1; Daniel Gandy (NSW) 13, 2; Finn Fisher-Black (N ZL) 12, 3.
Women 15km Madison: Waikato BOP Hub (McKenzie Milne, Emily Paterson) 23 points, 1; Waikato BOP (Ally Wollaston, Eva Parkinson) 18, 2; New Zealand (Jenna Merrick, Samantha Donnelly) 17, 3.
Men 20km Madison: Waikato-Southland (George Jackson, Corbin Strong) 37 points, 1; Australia Gold (Zachary Marshall, Matthew Rice) 19, 2; New Zealand (Finn Fisher-Black, Kiaan Watts) 18, 3.
Men Keirin Final: Thomas Cornish (NSW) 1, Zachary Marshall (NSW) 2, Ewan Syme (Southland) 3.