The band is back together as Sam Webster reunites with his World Champion teammates Ethan Mitchell and Eddie Dawkins for the UCI Oceania Track Cycling Championships starting in Cambridge today.
The championships, which run from Monday 20 to Thursday 23 November at the Avantidrome in Cambridge, provide key qualifying points for the UCI World Championships and early bragging rights as Australia and New Zealand eye next April’s Commonwealth Games.
While Mitchell and Dawkins have been competing in Europe including the opening two rounds of the UCI World Cup in Poland and Manchester, Webster has been in heavy training load after a three-month stint at the Keirin circuit in Japan. The world champion team sprint trio will take on an in-form Australian combination on the first day of the four day competition in what will be an exciting start to an important competition.
“It is the Commonwealth Games selection for the Australian team so they will be coming in full speed. It is going to be a great battle as always the Oceanias are always hotly contested. I am looking forward to it and can’t wait to see where things are at,” said Webster. “It is exciting to be back with Ethan and Eddie riding the Oceania Championships. I haven’t got the racing intensity that those boys have in their legs but I have had a good training block. It is going to be really great to get back racing with the guys and get back to doing what we do best.”
Webster took the opportunity in his post-Olympic year to take part in the exciting and unique Japan Keirin League for three months which proved a refreshing change. “It was an amazing experience to race in Japan. It intrigued me and [was] something that I wanted to find more about. It was a great experience and definitely learned a lot about myself and my riding style.
“There were a lot of benefits in going and I’ve developed a lot in the three months I was there.”
One of those was personally, living, travelling and training on his own. Webster was based close to the track which will be used for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 and the New Zealander had unrestricted access to train as well as compete in two UCI-style competitions. “I had the opportunity to test the track out in full race conditions and start the process of optimising the gear rations that I will ride and getting a good understanding of the demands of going fast on that track will be.
“It also reaffirmed a lot of things we get down here at our high performance centre in Cambridge that are absolute game-changers in terms of performance.
He is back refreshed and excited about the Oceania Championships and on to the World Cup in Canada, and an exciting early 2018 with the World Championships and Commonwealth Games.
And he says the team are keen to don their World Championship rainbow jerseys on the first day of competition.
“It is a massive honour and something we are extremely proud of. We try every time we put the rainbow jersey on to take it to the next level and we are hoping to do that this week and show the benefits of the hard training we have put in.”
The Championships get off to a hot start with the key team pursuit and team sprint for both men and women on the first day schedule along with the elite women’s 500m time trial, while the Under-19 competition includes the men’s omnium, women’s team pursuit and time trial with team sprint both men and women.
There are 150 riders spread among the official New Zealand and Australian teams, while other members of the Vantage New Zealand Elite squad and Subway Cycling New Zealand Performances Hubs will compete for their centres. There is also strong representation from riders from the cycling institutes of Western Australia, Tasmania, South Australia, New South Wales, ACT and Queensland taking part.
Racing is from 9am to early afternoon daily with evening finals sessions starting at 4pm each day. Day sessions are $5 for adults and free for children under-12. Night sessions are $10 for adults and $5 for children under-12 at the door. Full week passes are also available.