Since our last team update we have had some major events where we needed to gain valuable Olympic Qualifying points leading into the London Games this year.
In late November, we had the Oceania Championships in Invercargill. The team entered the championships in great condition for the timing of the season but by no means peaking for the event. The competition with Australia whether over the Sprint or Endurance disciplines or Male and Female, is always fierce.
The Team Sprint went well for us; we top qualified in a new NZ record and also set a new Track Record to boot. In the qualification round, we did just that, riding at new best time of 44.0 for the 750m event. This fulfilled up with confidence as Ethan has skipped his wheel in the standing start, which resulted in him losing all his speed he had gained to that point. The final was rapid one with Ethan blasting out of blocks, leaving the team strung out. The picture would have looked messy with gaps between riders but the ride was fast with all the splits looking promising. Simon anchored well at 3rd wheel and crossed the line ahead of the Australians. It was a great feeling to win the Team Sprint in Olympic year.
This raised our confidence levels as only a few short weeks before; the Australians had dealt us somewhat of a hiding at the Sydney GP.
Later the same night, Simon Van Velthooven continued the ‘Midus’ run by winning the Kilometer Time Trial in a new NZ record of 1.01.1 minutes. Even though the “Kilo” is no longer an Olympic event, it was a showing that was appreciated by the crowd and a good indication of form. Sam Webster rode a new NZ record on the final day in the Sprint Qualification of 10.106 seconds over 200 meters and winning the overall Match Sprints to wrap up the clean sweep of the Men's Sprint events at the Oceania Championships. It's always good to win bike races, but these championships for us felt like a big step forward towards the up coming World Cups, World Championships and the Olympic Games.
Next stop, the day after Oceania Championships finished we were off to Cali, Columbia. This would be our first chance to see where we stand in comparison with most of the countries since the World Champs in March. The city of Cali rests about 1000m above sea level. Because of its altitude, the air pressure is low which makes for fast times on the track. After placing third in the Team Sprint at this World Cup last year, while coming off some great results at the Oceania Championships the week before, we were excited about racing. Like every race we go to, we have a few days to familiarise ourselves with the Track and get ourselves ready to fire on the first race day. In the days before, we, as a team were posting some great times, which gave us a confidence boost leading into race day.
After a routine warm up we lined up for the team sprint qualifying. We started fast and were in contention for the medals after the first lap. However, half way through the second lap Sam’s rear wheel punctured under the extreme load from the G-forces, which resulted in himself and Eddie hitting the deck, hard. We were extremely disappointed with this as we were on target for a personal best and a truly World-class time. With the unforeseen start to the World Cup, the team looked to Simon Van Velthooven to kick-start the team results in the Kilo. Simon delivered the team with a Silver medal a time that equaled that of the Oceania Championships ride. Simon lined up for the Keirin the next day but ended up in the B final after being relegated in response to a controversial decision by the commissaries in the semi-final. However, decision was made and Simon took it in his stride.
On the final day Sam and Eddie both ambitiously chose to ride the Sprints with their injuries from the Team Sprint, whilst not being the results they were seeking, Eddie and Sam finished 10th and 13th respectively and rode well considering how hard they hit the boards.
The next event for our team is the Beijing World Cup (13-15 Jan) Simon and Eddie will be competing in the Team Sprint with Matt Archibald. For the entire squad, the next big event is the London World Cup (17-19 Feb), which serves as the Olympic test event for the Velodrome. This will be a great opportunity to understand the nuances of the track and experience what the facilities will be like on race day. This is a good opportunity to fine tune and refine any work-ons and potential experimentation with the approach to racing on the track. With this event looming, it is all beginning to take shape.
In summary, the results from Cali didn't show our potential that we had. But the experience we gained from the World Cup was a huge step and has left us with even more motivation to come out firing at our next race. The gains that we have made in this past season suggest that we can utilise every single one of the 199 days until the Olympic Games to progress further. We are going to races to win, not just to compete. A flurry of bad luck struck us, and we have learnt from it. But with our ultimate goal getting closer and closer. It's game on.