Cambridge's Avantidrome gets baptism of fire

BEN STRANG
Last updated 09:49 14/03/2014

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The Avantidrome got its baptism of fire yesterday, hosting its first event, the national cycling championships.

Modest crowds watched as the elite and under-19 championships got under way outside Cambridge, but larger crowds were expected tonight and for the weekend sessions.

The first session kicked off at 11am and ran more than an hour late as staff got used to the world-level starting gates and timing equipment.

Southland sprinter Stephanie McKenzie won the first national title of the championships, taking out the 250m time trial. She has spent plenty of time cycling on Invercargill's indoor velodrome, and said there were similar teething issues when that venue opened.

"[The event is] running a little slow, but you kind of expect that," she said.

"It's mainly around the starting process with the gate, but they're just getting used to it. They'll get faster and faster."

While the Southland velodrome has an infield at the same level as the track, the Avantidrome infield is lower, which McKenzie said gives the facility a more professional feel.

It also has longer corners than Invercargill's track, which she said had taken some getting used to while training with the BikeNZ elite team.

Men's 250m time trial winner and team sprint World Champion Ethan Mitchell is representing Auckland for nationals, but said he felt it was a home crowd, as he has moved to Cambridge.

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