OPINION: As usual, my final columns for the year look back on some of the highlights from the Cycling Southland year.
Each of these deserve more words than this column can provide, but collectively they add up to one helluva year for the sport in the south.
I planned to do a single column, but the sheer volume of performance means I have had to split this over two. So let's get started.
JANUARY: Cycling Southland members Nicky Samuels and James Williamson complete a remarkable double in winning both the elite titles at the road nationals in Christchurch. Matt Archibald and Eddie Dawkins earn World Cup bronze in the team sprint in Beijing, while Cam Karwowski earns the same coloured medal in the team pursuit. Canterbury's Dylan Kennett takes out the Gore-to-Invercargill road classic.
FEBRUARY: Eddie Dawkins and Natasha Hansen are the star turns at the elite track nationals in Invercargill, winning the trophies for most points by male and female riders, while Phillipa Gray and Laura Fairweather give us a taste of things to come by winning bronze at the Para-Cycling World Championships in Los Angeles.
MARCH: Southland again dominates the age-group track championships, earning 144 points to comfortably defend the National Points Shield, 63 points ahead of its closest region.
Kylie Young takes out the Gore-to-Waikiwi classic, while Sophie Williamson and Tom Vessey both earn podium finishes at the Oceania Road Championships, hosted in Queenstown. In the space of 48 hours eight Southlanders are named in world championship squads (three for the elites and five for the juniors) and, just to top off a busy month, we hand out 10 Southland road racing titles across various age groups.
APRIL: In what ranks at the top of my personal highlight list, Eddie Dawkins becomes the first man to break the 10-second mark in the men's sprint on one of the biggest stages imaginable - the UCI World Championships in Melbourne. Eddie and Matt Archibald finish qualifying in the top 12 in the world.
Eddie also earns New Zealand's first world championship sprint medal, winning bronze in the team sprint. I feel privileged to have watched it from the infield at Hisense Arena. Another 14 titles are handed out at the Southland time trial champs, and Eddie Dawkins and Natasha Hansen are named in New Zealand's Olympic team.
MAY: Sophie Williamson goes back to back in winning both the road race and time trial at the club road nationals, while Laura Heywood, Jennifer Muhl, Phillipa Gray, Laura Fairweather and Kylie Young also all stand on the medal dais. Tom Scully becomes the first New Zealander to finish in the top three of the prestigious Paris-Roubaix U23 race and, somehow, I cycle from Queenstown to Invercargill (or most of the way anyway) as part of Westpac's Chopper Appeal.
Until our June-to-December review next week, from all of us at Cycling Southland, a merry Christmas to you and yours.
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