Wait worth it as McKenzie grabs title

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 02/02/2013

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Steph McKenzie didn't so much knock on the door as burst through it last night as she took out the women's elite sprint final in steamy conditions at the Invercargill velodrome.

McKenzie has long been one of the most promising talents in BikeNZ's female sprint programme, but even she admits it was starting to feel like a long time since she claimed three medals at the world junior championships in 2011.

"I'm stoked, it's taken two years to get back to where I was at for junior worlds," said McKenzie, who credited the work she had done in the gym with trainer Simon Jones and on the boards with coach Stu McDonald.

"Getting back into it after junior worlds was pretty difficult, so finally winning an individual event as an elite rider - I think it's just a sigh of relief."

McKenzie overcame Olympic representative and Southland team-mate Natasha Hansen in consecutive rides in the final, with Katie Schofield sweeping Paige Patterson for bronze.

Auckland's Sam Webster won his first national elite sprint title after losing three straight finals, beating Southlander Matt Archibald over two rides.

Webster, a triple world champion at junior level, is on the comeback after being bitterly disappointed at missing out on the BikeNZ team for the London Olympics.

He has spent more time with friends, fulfilled a promise he made back in 2008 to buy a golden labrador after his childhood pet died in the leadup to the Beijing Olympics, and steeled himself to make the push to Rio in three years.

"Dealing with that Olympic situation was pretty hard and for me it was about turning up to every race this season in good nick," Webster said. Missing out on London had been brutal.

"To be 100 per cent honest, I was in tears to the sport [psychologist]," he said.

"I came off the world champs and picked up a bronze medal and then was told I wasn't going to the Olympics. I can be as angry as I want but they opted to put Simon [van Velthooven] in and he got a bronze, so that's why I have to take my pride and swallow it," he said.

Hungrier, with an improved perspective on life, Webster proved the changes are working with a gold in the team sprint at the Mexico World Cup.

Earlier in the day, Archibald and Eddie Dawkins both broke the 200m sprint qualifying mark held by Webster, before Webster regained the record with a world-class 10.074.

Dawkins would go on to win bronze over Ethan Mitchell.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Presbury continued the outstanding form he has shown this year.

The Southland senior rider of the year in 2012, Presbury was coming off two gold medals in the Australian Youth Olympic Festival last month.

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After a silver in the 1000m time trial on Thursday night, he showed a clean pair of cleats to take out the men's under 19 keirin last night.

The 17-year-old had the way cleared when top Aucklander Chad Elliston was disqualified for crowding in his semifinal, but he then rode beautifully from the No 1 spot in the final to claim Southland's first title of this week's championships.

Presbury debated a race plan with coach Ross Machejefski before the pair settled on forcing the field to chase him.

"Coming off the Youth Olympics I was showing some good form. The past few days I've been so-so, and had a pretty hard kilo and the legs are feeling it, but definitely keen to come away with that title."

The national track championships continue today with a programme that includes the men's and women's elite keirin, before finishing tomorrow.

- The Southland Times

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