Action hot on first night of track champs

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 22:08 31/01/2013
Laura Fairweather
ROBYN EDIE/ Fairfax NZ
HOT STUFF: Southland's Laura Fairweather finishes fourth in the women's 3000m individual pursuit.

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The mercury was banging against the top of the temperature gauge with the action on the Stadium Southland velodrome track just as hot on the opening night of the national track cycling championships.

Olympic bronze medallist Aaron Gate took out the men's individual pursuit with a dominant ride in the final against Cantabrian Michael Vink.

''It was pretty cool to come down here and do my first individual pursuit for a while and crack out a couple of good times,'' Gate said.

Temperatures in Invercargill have been sweltering this week and the velodrome was no exception, with the heat reaching about 32C for the evening session.

''I think I had a sweat on just walking to the bike, let alone warming up,'' Gate said.

Since winning bronze in the teams pursuit in London, Gate had his longest break from riding for about six years when he took a month off prior to last year's Tour of Southland.

In this post-Olympic year, Gate's immediate future is fluid.

''It depends how nationals go, if I have really good bunch races over the next few days hopefully I'll potentially go to the world champs at the end of February, but if that doesn't happen I'd have more time to prepare for the road,'' the 22-year-old said.

Gate will head to Europe in March to ride a season for a continental team based in Belgium.

''It's a full season from the end of March to the beginning of October. It will be a big haul over there so I've just got to be careful I don't go over with too much track in the legs or the season can fall to bits when you run out of endurance after a couple of months.''

Vink's appearance in the final marked an exciting return to the track for the former junior world championship representative, who hadn't been on the boards for three years.

In the absence of world champion Alison Shanks, who has a long term hip injury, Jaime Nielsen won the women's individual pursuit over 3000m from Georgia Williams.

Cameron Karwowski took more than a second off his personal best time to qualify for the bronze medal ride against Myron Simpson, where he had to settle for fourth place.

Southland team mate Laura Fairweather, who piloted Philippa Gray to three medals at the London Paralympics, bettered her own best time by 3sec to qualify for the bronze medal rider off where she finished fourth behind New Zealand representative Rushlee Buchanan.

Records tumbled in the 250m time trials during the morning session, with Katie Schofield beating her own national mark in the women's event and Ethan Mitchell doing likewise in the men's.

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Steph McKenzie rode a personal best to win silver for Southland, with Olympian Natasha Hansen third.

Mitchell faced stiff competition from the Southland pairing of Matt Archibald and Eddie Dawkins, who finished second and third respectively with Archibald also breaking the old national record during qualifying.

Schofield, who missed nearly a week of training after crashing during the keirin at the ILT Carnival two weeks ago, backed up with victory in the 500m time trial, with Southland riders Hansen (silver) and McKenzie (bronze) bookending her on the podium.

The penultimate event of the night, the 1000m men's time trial, offered the juicy prospect of New Zealand record holder and world championship bronze medallist Simon van Velthooven squaring off against local favourite Dawkins.

Dawkins went close to his personal best for the distance in his heat, but it wasn't enough to stop the Rhino, who smashed his own national record to claim the gold medal.

Karwowski backed up well from the pursuit to take bronze.

Manawatu's van Velthooven is on the finishing straight after back-to-back seasons and was feeling nervous going into last night's final.

''I feel good on the bike, it's just when I'm off the bike I just feel very, very tired _ pounding head aches and dizziness. When the endorphins are flowing I'm fine but off the bike it's not very nice, I'm a pretty grumpy little boy.''

Having produced his second fastest time over the distance, van Velthooven is targeting the 60sec barrier.

''I want to do sub-60 in Colombia next year at the world champs. A little bit of altitude, good form, good bike, good experience, that's my next target. It's a good event because it's a break from the Olympic events. That's why me and Eddie like the kilo, because it's different and a bit more, what's the word, cavemanish.''

Josh Haggerty rode a brave race in the men's under 19 10km scratch, but had to settle for third after being mowed down by Chad Elliston and Regan Gough in the finishing straight.

RESULTS

Women's 250m time trial: Katie Schofield 19.326 1; Steph McKenzie 19.730 2; Natasha Hansen 20.211 3.

Men's 250m time trial: Ethan Mitchell 17.325 1; Matt Archibald 17.578 2; Eddie Dawkins 17.917 3.

Women's 3000m individual pursuit: Jaime Nielsen 3:35.268 1; Georgia Williams 3:36.955 2; Rushlee Buchanan 3:40.778 3.

Men's 4000m individual pursuit: Aaron Gate 4:22.076 1; Michael Vink 4:29.254 2; Myron Simpson 3.

Women's under 19 500m time trial: Holly Edmonston 37.768 1; Laura Heywood 38.671 2; Alice Hay 38.815 3.

Men's under 19 1000m time trial: Alex Hooper 1:03.733 1; Jeremy Presbury 1:04.577 2; Zac Williams 1:04.607 3.

Women's 500m time trial: Katie Schofield 34.993 1; Natasha Hansen 35.168 2; Steph McKenzie 35.367 3.

Men's 1000m time trial: Simon van Velthooven 1:00.973 1; Eddie Dawkins 1:01.543 2; Cameron Karwowski 1:02.732 3.

Men's under 19 10km scratch: Chad Elliston 1; Regan Gough 2; Josh Haggerty 3.

- The Southland Times

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