Some old hands and some fresh faces enjoyed success on the second day of the Vantage National Track Championships in Cambridge.

Veteran Sam Webster chalked up another national individual sprint title – now too many for him to remember – while rising Waikato endurance rider Jessie Hodges and emerging sprinter Olivia Podmore enjoyed their first individual elite national titles.

Hodges threw caution to the wind to grab a late second lap to beat off the in-form fellow Waikato rider Ally Wollaston and a strong elite field to win the women’s omnium.

Meanwhile Podmore edged out her senior Vantage Elite teammate Natasha Hansen in two straight rides in the women’s sprint finals.

Webster clocked 9.766s – the only rider under 10 seconds – in qualifying for the individual sprint, only a fraction outside his best; and made more impressive with all sprinters competing under heavy training loads.

Sam Webster claimed yet another sprint title at Nationals, photo Dianne Manson

Eventually Webster pushed through to the match race final against close friend Ethan Mitchell, winning in two straight rides.

“As we are under quite high training load, I was quite pleased with the time,” said Webster. 

“I was able to build my way through the day and then another ride against Ethan – two guys who know each other too well. We have been training together since 2008 – it was good fun.

“I struggled for a couple of years with the bigger gear ratios after a period when I won world cups and was top four in the world championships. There’s been a big shift. It is the work I am doing in the team sprint now that is really paying off. It is the holistic approach to the team sprint that is paying off across the board and as an athlete I am performing at another level.”

Hansen, like Webster, showed her speed to top qualifying in the elite women’s sprint in 10.851, only 0.2s outside her national record, with Vantage Elite teammates Podmore on 10.964 and Ellesse Andrews 11.289.

Olivia Podmore won the women’s sprint in two straight rides ahead of Natasha Hansen, photo Dianne Manson

Podmore beat off Andrews in two rides to take on Hansen in the final with the young Canterbury rider prevailing in two rides.

“It was my first individual elite sprint title. But I think it was a battle to see who best survived the last three weeks of really tough training,” said Podmore. 

“Next is the world championships. I’ve qualified for the sprint and hopefully I can take the lessons from here and the world cups and progress further in the sprint. But there’s no rest as we are back to the gym tomorrow.”

The women’s omnium seemed to be heading Wollaston’s way after she won the opening scratch race, with Rushlee Buchanan winning the tempo race ahead of Wollaston who then won the elimination over Hodges.

In the deciding points race, both riders put an early lap on the field before Hodges changed her tactics, and instead of trying to match the sprint prowess of Wollaston, she pushed clear off the front of the pack to eventually lap the field for a second time.

The bonus 20 points pushed her to the points win and overall omnium honours from Wollaston and Buchanan.

“The top four were really close and I knew Ally had such a good sprint so I changed tactics and knew I had to take a lap which I do not normally do, but it worked today,” said Hodges. “I don’t like to plan things too much because in racing things change all the time. You have to go on the spur of the moment.”

In a fierce display of endurance and speed, Southland’s Corbin Strong claimed the elite men’s points race ahead of omnium world champion Campbell Stewart and Aaron Gate. 

With only six of the 17 riders surviving the 30km race, Strong won five sprints and only missed scoring in one sprint to emerge with 46 points with Stewart on 29 and Gate on 21 with no one able to gain a lap.

In the under-19 grades it was the Canterbury pair of Jenna Borthwick and Laurence Pithie who grabbed the limelight. Borthwick, who won the scratch race and the 500m time trial on day one, followed that with titles in the individual pursuit and keirin, to display a remarkable breadth of talent.

Pithie, the double junior world champion also won the individual pursuit and took out the scratch, tempo and points races on the way to the omnium honours.

In other races Canterbury’s Sebastian Lipp won the under-19 keirin and Waikato’s Prudence Fowler claimed the under-19 points race on the back of winning the final double points sprint.

The championships continue until Sunday. The event is livestreamed for the afternoon sessions on Sky Sport NZ Next Youtube channel https://tinyurl.com/ur24rz2

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