NZ track cycling in top shape - Sarah Ulmer

BEN STRANG
Last updated 05:00 13/03/2014
Sarah Ulmer
CYCLING GREAT: Sarah Ulmer.

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New Zealand track cycling legend Sarah Ulmer says the sport has never been in better shape, as the nationals get under way today at the Avantidrome in Cambridge.

A former Olympic, world and Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Ulmer said the lineup for the Elite and U19 Track Cycling Championships is as good as it has ever been.

With the elite men's team returning from a successful World Championships in Colombia, and the women's team building towards the Commonwealth Games, the cyclists appear  on top of their game heading into the week.

''They're absolutely the best riders in the world,'' Ulmer said. 

''Obviously some of the guys are world champions, some of them could have or should have been if things had gone their way.

''In the women's, I absolutely believe some of them are the best in the world. Our nationals is going to be a world class event.''

The first event to be held at New Zealand's new home of cycling, the Avantidrome, Ulmer said it will give a real buzz to the cyclists.

Before the building of Invercargill's velodrome, national championships were competed on outdoor velodromes around New Zealand.

One of those was the velodrome in Te Awamutu, where Ulmer remembers competing as an up and coming track cyclist.

While she has good memories of the track, she said it doesn't compare to the world class venue that has been built in Cambridge.

''There's a real buzz in Cambridge. I'm really proud of my home town. When you can walk down the street and see world champion cyclists, rowers, triathletes, the equestrians are from here, it's just brilliant.''

Ulmer said the event is the riders only chance each year to race for their home town, and produces good rivalries between centres, and between New Zealand team-mates.

One such rivalry will be in the men's team sprint where world champions Sam Webster and Ethan Mitchell will line up for Auckland, against team-mate Eddie Dawkins' Southland team.

''When I was riding, it was always exciting to race for your home town, and I think we all get that,'' Ulmer said.

''It's rare to have that happen, and it really adds to the event.''

Tickets are available at the door, or online through Ticketek. The national champs start today, and run until Sunday.

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