13 Feb 2016

Strong finish at cycling nationals

7:16 pm on 13 February 2016

The New Zealand cycling selectors face a raft of riches after strong performances at the Vantage national track championships in Cambridge.

The New Zealand track cyclist Matt Archibald.

The New Zealand track cyclist Matt Archibald. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The selectors face a tough task to decide on their combinations for the upcoming world championships in London, with the team to be named on Monday.

The final day at the Avantidrome focussed on team racing with Mid-South Canterbury and Waikato-Bay of Plenty prevailing in the men's and women's team pursuits respectively.

Natasha Hansen sealed an outstanding week with her fourth national title, joining with Stephan Mckenzie to win the women's team sprint, with fellow Southland team of Matt Archibald, Jeremy Presbury and Ben Stewart claiming the men's team sprint.

There were two exhibition rides by the men's team sprint combination of Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster and Eddie Dawkins and the women's team pursuit quartet of Rushlee Buchanan, Georgia Williams, Jaime Nielsen and Lauren Ellis.

Sprint coach Anthony Peden gave a thumbs-up for his men's team pursuit and for the development in both Hansen and the younger sprinters evolving.

"We went 43.6 and 43.7 in two rides today. That is faster than we have ever gone three weeks out from a world championship, so you have to be happy with that," Peden said.

"They have trained through and had a gym session today. We will be under 43 at the worlds and hopefully that will mean we will be there or thereabouts.

"Natasha has taken a step up this week, not just winning but focussing on the quality of her performances. She is producing times that will be competitive at the world championships.

"And some of the young sprinters are really showing up which is exciting for the future."

In an event noted for its smooth precision, the men's 4000m team pursuit final was chaotic excitement.

Veteran Jason Allen gave Mid-South Canterbury a 1.3 second lead before he exited after less than three of the 16 laps, but the strength of world champions Dylan Kennett, and Marc Ryan along with double Olympic medallist Hayden Roulston pushed the southerners to a 2.9 second buffer at the 3km mark.

Then the wheels began to wobble as Piet Bulling wound up his Southland crew who closed the gap ti within half a second into the final lap before they too lost shape.

Mid-South Canterbury held on to win in a superb 4:03.427 with Southland 0.7s back.

"We had a plan from the start. This morning we rode to qualify and changed things tonight so we could go faster," Ryan said.

"We know there's a lot at stake on selection but in reality a lot of that is set out in our training before you come to these events.

"We are riding a lot different times and in different positions than we do at training. We are travelling at half a second a lap quicker in the team for the worlds so it makes a huge difference in how you ride and how you deliver.

" It won't be an easy job for the coaches because of the depth we have. Everyone has come in at different stages and there's still three weeks to go to worlds so a lot cam still happen. It is in their hands."

Someone who has taken things in her own hands is Hansen in her clean sweep of all four sprint titles, two national records and a significance confidence boost.

"It has been quite a few years since I've managed to win four national titles. I am happy with all the hard work I've done in the last year and all the support I've had," Hansen said.

"With the worlds coming up I have been trying to achieve times that will give me confidence racing there. It has not been just about winning here but producing world class performances.

"The only way I can get better is to compare my times with the best in the world. It has been motivation to check where I am and chase down some of the times of the best in the world."