Oceania championships a chance for riders to impress

The track cycling season begins in earnest this week with a record 17-strong Southland contingent lining up at the Oceania Track Cycling Championships in Adelaide starting tomorrow.

Ten riders will start in New Zealand's elite and under-19 squads, and seven more will ride in Cycling Southland colours over the four-day championships, which alternate between Australia and Invercargill annually.

As usual, from our office window we have had a pretty good view of preparations at the velodrome, and with scaled-back international campaigns scheduled for New Zealand's track programme this season, the Oceania championships represent one of a limited number of opportunities for riders to impress.

As discussed in this column last week, with a new Olympic cycle beginning post-London, much interest will focus on the next wave of talent stepping into the elite ranks and at how some of the experienced campaigners will back up after the Olympics. Southland has riders in both categories.

Eddie Dawkins has quickly become one of the most experienced members of the elite squad and I have little doubt that the big fella will relish any extra leadership responsibility.

Alongside him will be his good mate Matt Archibald, who has certainly found strong training form over the last couple of weeks and will be wanting to send a clear message to the selectors that he is worthy of a world championship ride in February. Natasha Hansen will be hoping she can replicate her form from 12 months ago, when she claimed three Oceania titles and a silver from her four starts.

The endurance squad features Sequoia Cooper, who will have renewed focus with the strong possibility the women's team pursuit will move from three to four riders in Rio in 2016, along with Cameron Karwowski and Pieter Bulling, who have both come off impressive European summers and strong Tours of Southland.

The under-19 New Zealand squad is an early indication of those in the running for trips to Glasgow in August for the 2013 World Juniors. Jeremy Presbury will likely be one of the first names written down after his fourth placings this year in Invercargill. He will take on the Super-Drome in Adelaide along with Josh Haggerty and first-year under-19s Mike Culling and Laura Heywood.

Meanwhile, seven other riders will wear the Southland skin-suit in Adelaide - Aimee Burns, Steph McKenzie, Matt Dodds, Karl Watson, first-year under-19 Nick Kergozou and a returning Lee Evans, who rode last year for Wellington, where he is attending university. Of these, McKenzie looms as the strong contender for possible podium finish, showing some excellent training form in recent weeks.

The 2013 Oceania Track Championships in Adelaide begin tomorrow and end on Saturday.

The next key local event is the Southland Track Championships, to be held from December 7 to 9, and the annual ILT New Year Track Carnival will be held on January 18 and 19, leading in to the elite and under-19 national championships starting on January 31.

Nick Jeffrey is chief executive of Cycling Southland.

The Southland Times